December 01, 2021

Top CNAS Reports of 2021


In 2021, CNAS published innovative new research and policy ideas on the country's enduring—and emerging—national security challenges. The Center's work had tangible impact: it was quoted in hundreds of news articles and highlighted in op-eds, it informed legislation and congressional testimony, and it was discussed at events around the globe.

Get ready for 2022 and the new challenges ahead by looking back at CNAS' most popular reports of the year, covering everything from the deepening China-Russia partnership, to U.S. sanction policy to global technology competition.

1. Myths and Realities of China’s Military-Civil Fusion Strategy

Beijing’s drive to create stronger linkages between its civilian economy and defense industrial base has started to draw considerable attention in Washington. Known as “military-civil fusion” (MCF), these efforts have formed a key part of Beijing’s intensifying economic and technological competition with the United States. While President Biden’s administration will have an opportunity to reset the tone of the U.S.-China relationship, China’s model of MCF remains a major concern for U.S. policymakers. This report by Elsa B. Kania and Lorand Laskai dispels several prominent myths about China’s MCF efforts, and seeks to improve policymakers’ understanding of the challenges MCF presents while enhancing the U.S. government’s ability to grapple with these issues.

2. The Poison Frog Strategy

How could the United States respond if China seized one of Taiwan’s outlying islands in the South China Sea? A recent report authors Christopher Dougherty, Jennie Matuschak, and Ripley Hunter from CNAS’ Gaming Lab details the outcomes of the virtual strategy game, which saw the U.S. team relying on military force in ways that were risky and would be difficult to sustain. At the same time, other non-military options, such as economic sanctions or information campaigns, took too long to produce effects and appeared too weak to compel China to abandon its gains.

Technology & National Security

Myths and Realities of China’s Military-Civil Fusion Strategy

In U.S. policy debates on China, military-civil fusion (MCF) has emerged as a frequent subject of debate and concern....

Defense

The Poison Frog Strategy

Introduction How could Taiwan and the United States respond if China seized one of Taiwan’s outlying islands, such as Pratas/Dongsha (hereafter Dongsha) in the South China Sea...

3. Taking the Helm

A rising China poses a fundamental challenge to the economic vitality and national security of the United States and its allies and the currency of liberal democratic values around the world. Technology—a key enabler for economic, political, and military power—is front and center in this competition. Authors Martijn Rasser and Megan Lamberth offer a series of policy recommendations to help guide the U.S. government’s formation and execution of a national technology strategy. Further, their report provides the intellectual framing for what a national technology strategy is and why the United States needs one.

4. China’s Digital Currency

China has made greater progress toward developing a national digital currency than any other major advanced economy. Experts Yaya J. Fanusie and Emily Jin argue that Beijing’s efforts to develop a central bank digital currency will play a key role in driving the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP) digital authoritarianism. Their report examines how the People’s Bank of China’s digital currency project could strengthen the CCP’s domestic control over citizens, undermine global standards around financial data privacy, and erode longstanding international norms.

Technology & National Security

Taking the Helm

The United States needs a new approach to regain the initiative. The stakes are high and the window for action is closing....

Energy, Economics & Security

China’s Digital Currency

China is pushing aggressively to be a global leader in financial technology....

5. Navigating the Deepening Russia-China Partnership

Increased cooperation between Russia and China threatens to erode U.S. military advantages, strain an already stressed U.S. defense budget, and undermine America’s ability to uphold its commitment to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific. Moscow and Beijing’s growing alignment also poses serious risks for liberal democracies as Russia and China popularize authoritarian governance, water down human rights norms, and export their illiberal models of technology use. This report by By Andrea Kendall-Taylor and David Shullman provide an in-depth examination of the deepening ties between Russia and China, the United States’ two most consequential adversaries.

6. More than Half the Battle

Gaining an advantage in managing information and exercising command is a precondition of victory in warfare. This necessity has become even more acute as military organizations have integrated information technology into their forces and operations. Recognizing this, China and Russia have placed information at the center of their strategies for competing with or combating the United States. Author Chris Dougherty examines how the Department of Defense (DoD) can embrace, rather than fight against, the changes in the character of warfare and learn to thrive within its chaos in ways that China and Russia may be unable to match.

Indo-Pacific Security

Navigating the Deepening Russia-China Partnership

In virtually every dimension of their relationship, cooperation between Beijing and Moscow has increased....

Defense

More than Half the Battle

The DoD needs to embrace, rather than fight against, the changes in the character of warfare and learn to thrive within its chaos in ways that China and Russia may be unable t...

7. Risky Business: Future Strategy and Force Options for the Defense Department

Despite the overarching strategic priorities laid out by the Biden administration and initial indicators provided by the Department of Defense, it is unclear how the next National Defense Strategy will prioritize threats and assign the primary role of the U.S. military. In this report, authors Stacie Pettyjohn, Becca Wasser and Jennie Matuschak examine three possible strategy and force structure options for the Biden administration under a flat budget. Using tabletop exercises and budgetary analysis, they assess whether these options can sufficiently meet the challenges of daily competition and future great-power conflict, and ensure America’s long-term military technological edge.

8. Sanctions by the Numbers: U.S. Secondary Sanctions

Over the past decade, secondary sanctions have emerged as a critical—and sometimes controversial—tool to increase the effectiveness and reach of U.S. primary sanctions programs. While U.S. individuals and entities must adhere to primary sanctions as a matter of U.S. law or face potential criminal/civil penalties, secondary sanctions present non-U.S. targets with a choice: do business with the United States or with the sanctioned target, but not both. Read more about secondary sanctions in this edition of Sanctions by the Numbers from authors Jason Bartlett and Megan Ophel.

Defense

Risky Business: Future Strategy and Force Options for the Defense Department

Executive Summary Despite the overarching strategic priorities laid out by the Biden administration and initial indicators provided by the Department of Defense (DoD), it is u...

Energy, Economics & Security

Sanctions by the Numbers: U.S. Secondary Sanctions

Over the past decade, secondary sanctions have emerged as a critical—and sometimes controversial—tool to increase the effectiveness and reach of U.S. primary sanctions program...

9. From Plan to Action

Strategies can be eloquent and inspiring. How successful they are rests in addressing gritty details outside of the spotlight. An effective and realistic national technology strategy requires vision, process, an executable framework, and a commitment to addressing bureaucratic, legal, and regulatory hurdles to implementation. Alongside a comprehensive national technology strategy, the United States needs a blueprint for how to operationalize such a strategy. In a CNAS report, authors John Costello, Martijn Rasser, and Megan Lamberth offer concrete and pragmatic measures that U.S. policymakers should take to operationalize a national technology strategy.

10. Networked: Techno-Democratic Statecraft for Australia and the Quad

A strategic competition is underway—and technology stands at its core. Technology-leading countries will drive the digital economy, gain political power and military strength, and shape global norms for technology use. In response, Australia’s leaders are building novel international collaborations, such as the Quad Tech Network, recognizing that alliances and partnerships among the world’s democracies represent a key strategic advantage. In this report, author Martijn Rasser lays out a blueprint for techno-democratic statecraft in the Quad.

Technology & National Security

From Plan to Action

Executive Summary Ideas abound for actions the United States should take to better position itself for the unfolding global technology competition. Concerning topics as divers...

Technology & National Security

Networked: Techno-Democratic Statecraft for Australia and the Quad

Australia is well positioned to lead the Quad to achieve important technology policy objectives....

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