6 May 2021

China’s Nuclear and Missile Capabilities: An Overview

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

Since China first conducted a nuclear weapon test in 1964, its nuclear doctrine has remained unchanged and is underpinned by two principles: a minimum deterrent doctrine and a No First Use (NFU) policy. China’s 2019 defence white paper states, “China is always committed to a nuclear policy of NFU of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances, and not using or threatening to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear-weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones unconditionally.” 

However, a recent U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) report claims that the scope of China’s nuclear modernisation and its lack of transparency “raise concern that China is not only shifting its requirements for what constitutes a minimal deterrence but that it could shift away from its longstanding minimalist force posture.” The data available show that China is modernising and expanding virtually every element of its nuclear forces, including each aspect of its nuclear weapons and missile, sea, and air delivery systems. What is not clear are China’s current and planned holdings of nuclear weapons, China’s future plans for deploying additional delivery systems, its commitment to some form of NFU, first preemption, or launch on warning, and the extent to which it will accept what might be called a form of ‘minimum assured destruction.

How Would Data Localization Benefit India?


Data localization refers to various policy measures that restrict data flows by limiting the physical storage and processing of data within a given jurisdiction’s boundaries. Multiple countries have adopted localization policies to combat multiple concerns over the free flow of data. A vital question, then, is whether any particular variant of data localization would help the Indian government meet its multiple stated objectives for considering such a policy course.

There are four key types of localization variants. These include (a) conditional localization that entails a local storage requirement, (b) unconditional local storage requirements (for all personal data), (c) unconditional mirroring requirements (for all personal data), and (d) the unconditional free flow of data with bilateral/ multilateral agreements for data access and transfers. This paper breaks up these four variants further into a total of nine specific designs and evaluates which would best serve India’s objectives.


Data localization has become a significant policy issue in India in the last decade. This is primarily due to the perceived economic benefits of processing Indian consumer data, and difficulties accessing personal data for national security and law enforcement purposes. In 2019, the Indian government introduced a data protection bill in the Indian parliament, which is still being debated and considered. This bill proposes the country’s first economy-wide data localization framework. That said, more tailored, sector-specific data localization measures have already been implemented in many parts of the Indian economy. For example, the telecommunications sector already requires the local storage and local processing of subscriber information and prohibits the transferring of subscribers’ account information overseas. Most recently, India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, has mandated that all payment data be stored in India, though it can be processed abroad.

The force is still too small, Army chief says, and Afghanistan withdrawal won’t really help

Kyle Rempfer

Ending the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan won’t be of much use to Army planners sweating the size of the force, as fiscal constraints loom large over the service in the coming years.

The Army’s end-strength growth, once expected to top 500,000 active-duty soldiers, has slowed to a crawl in recent years and currently sits at roughly 485,000 troops.

“This is the same size Army that we had on 9/11, and when I take a look at what the requirements are, when I take a look at what historically we needed, and now that we’re in a time of great power competition, I’m very, very concerned about the size of the Army,” Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville said during a Tuesday discussion at the Center for a New American Security.

Much of the strain on the Army’s size comes from the combatant commands, where soldiers make up the bulk of military personnel deployed across the world. But the impending withdrawal from Afghanistan, in U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, won’t make much of a difference.

“The number of troops in Afghanistan is really not a significant amount,” McConville said when asked how the withdrawal would factor into end-strength woes.

Growing the Army also doesn’t appear to be happening in the current fiscal environment, unless the service cuts into readiness and modernization funding.

How Not to Win Allies and Influence Geopolitics

China, it is often said, has mastered the art of economic statecraft. Observers routinely worry that by throwing around its ever-growing economic weight, the country is managing to buy goodwill and influence. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing has exploited its dominance of manufacturing supply chains to win favor by donating masks and now vaccines to foreign countries. And it has long used unfair state subsidies to tilt the playing field in favor of Chinese companies.

How China is stoking America’s racial tensions

Ian Williams

Footage of a brutal late March attack on a 65-year-old Asian American woman in Manhattan drew widespread outrage on social media. It also made for a productive afternoon for Zhao Lijian. From his Beijing office, the Chinese government spokesman retweeted 20 posts and shared the video 12 times on his official Twitter account. ‘We can’t help but wonder, who will be the next victim? When will it all end?’ he asked his almost 900,000 followers.

Zhao isn’t the only one who’s been busy. In the wake of the Atlanta spa shootings on March 16, Chinese state media used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to stoke a narrative of American racism and hatred. One Twitter post from Global Times, a Communist party tabloid, shows the Statue of Liberty, gun in hand, towering over a tiny cardboard cutout figure marked ‘Asian’, with a target on its chest. Another cartoon, shared by CGTN, the international arm of China’s state broadcaster, shows an American COVID-19 vaccination center, and a young Asian asking the doctor, ‘By the way, is there also a vaccine for racism?’

Two years ago, China had almost no diplomatic presence on western social media. Now around 200 diplomats growl and troll their way around these platforms — the vanguard of a concerted push by party-controlled organizations, working in concert with a vast and shifting array of bogus accounts, to sow disinformation and discord.

How to Turn the Tables on China? Use Their A2/AD Military Strategy Against Them

by James Holmes

Here's What You Need to Remember: Shipping and aircraft on which China’s economic and geopolitical fortunes depend must pass under the shadow of hostile armed forces whenever they leave or return home. Strategic geography encumbers China’s ambitions to a degree unique among great powers.

The Pentagon released two appraisals of China in swift succession. The first, issued by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), goes by the title China Military Power and is patterned on the old-school Soviet Military Power tomes beloved by those of us of a vintage to have battled godless communism during the 1980s.

People’s Liberation Army (PLA) specialists will find little new or eye-popping in China’s Military Power, but it does make a worthy refresher for oldtimers and primer for newcomers to the field. Read the whole thing.

If the DIA report gauges Chinese power, the second Pentagon document, awkwardly titled “Assessment on U.S. Defense Implications of China’s Expanding Global Access,” explores the purposes for which Beijing harnesses power. It evaluates Chinese “grand strategy,” in other words, even though the phrase never appears in the document.

This one’s worth your time as well. And it’s short!


David Knoll, Kevin Pollpeter and Sam Plapinger 

Since early March, up to 220 boats from China’s maritime militia have been moored near Whitsun Reef in the South China Sea. The Philippine government has asked the Chinese government to direct the ships to leave its exclusive economic zone, but Beijing has denied that the ships are part of the militia, saying they are merely “fishing boats” sheltering from sea conditions. These actions fit a recent pattern of Chinese leaders turning to irregular warfare to achieve strategic aims in the South China Sea: China sends its maritime militia to a location in the South China Sea to reinforce Chinese sovereignty claims and then ratchets up control with little involvement by conventional forces.

The actions of the maritime militia are part of a body of evidence that Beijing has embraced irregular warfare as central to its military strategy. Despite this evidence, and a first-rate Irregular Warfare Annex to the US National Defense Strategy (NDS), many in the Pentagon believe that irregular warfare is a relic of the last two decades and that future war will be conventional. Before divesting too many irregular warfare capabilities, however, national security leaders should look closely at what Chinese officials’ words and China’s military actions say about how the People’s Liberation Army might actually fight a war. In fact, leaders should examine how US plans for distributed operations might not be reducing risk, but shifting risk from conventional to irregular threats.

In a recent CNA study, we found that in a future, large-scale conflict, Chinese forces will likely employ a modern and unique irregular warfare concept, focused on information and influence, tightly integrated with conventional capabilities. A return to great power competition does not portend a shift away from irregular warfare to conventional warfare, but rather an amalgamation of the two.

Iraq: The Missing Keystone in U.S. Policy in the Gulf

One of the odd side effects of both the U.S. focus on withdrawal from Afghanistan and on the possible revival of the JCPOA agreement with Iran is that U.S. relations with Iraq seems to be getting passing attention at best. In practice, U.S. relations with Iraq, its development as a stable and secure state, and ensuring that it can become independent of Iranian influence may well be far more important than leaving Afghanistan and reviving the JCPOA.

Important as the dealings with Iran and other issues driving stability and instability in the MENA region are, retaining U.S. ties to Iraq, building it up as a stable state and counterbalance to Iran, reducing its deep internal tensions and the lasting threat of extremism may well represent America’s most important immediate strategic challenges in the region. The U.S. has many strategic objectives in the MENA region, but forging a successful strategic relationship with Iraq is now be one of America’s highest priorities.

This commentary addresses some of the key issues involved in creating both successful U.S. relations with Iraq and a successful Iraq, but both the security and civil dimensions are highly complex. Accordingly, two separate Annexes have been developed that explain the security and civil challenges involved in depth.

Annex One is entitled Creating Effective Iraqi Security Forces. It is available as an individual report on the CSIS website at https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/210427_Burke_Iraq_Missing_Keystone_ANNEX_1.pdf.

Annex Two is entitled Dealing with the Civil Crisis in Iraq. It is available on the CSIS website at https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/210427_Burke_Iraq_Missing_Keystone.ANNEX_2.pdf.


The Planetary Security Initiative has launched a first report and overview of climate security practices. Climate security research has evolved tremendously over the past 20 years in the direction of how to address security risks related to climate change. Action on the ground is still limited but holds a lot of potential. Therefore, interest is growing in the development, diplomacy and defence sectors to engage in this space. The climate security practices project from the Planetary Security Initiative seeks to open up a new and vital area of analysis in the climate security community: When it comes to action, what works, and what doesn’t?

Although it is still too early to answer this question, it is possible to collect climate security practices and draw lessons from their implementation. With the climate security link having become more evident in many countries and regions of the world it is imperative to scale up efforts to address the climate security nexus and to learn from these efforts. The Planetary Security Initiative aims to inspire learning on how we can combat this complex risk, or at least alleviate security risks related to climate change, and consider it a new entry point for conflict prevention and peacebuilding efforts.

The first report draws lessons from and reflects on 8 climate security practices that enhance peace and stability. Many peace-building interventions try to address a wide range of conflict drivers, which include the various manifestations of climate stress such as pressure on natural resources, livelihoods and human security. These can arise from desertification, lack of access to water and unequal natural resource distribution. Examples of these interventions include tree-planting projects, the inclusion of natural resource distribution measures in peace treaties and provision of renewables in refugee camps and military missions. The projects will cover a wide range of practices ranging from human security to hard security-focused practices implemented by actors in the development, diplomacy and defence sectors.

Download report.

Water and Warfare: The Evolution and Operation of the Water Taboo

Charlotte Grech-Madin 

Distinct from realist and rationalist explanations, the historical record of the post–World War II period reveals the rise of an international normative inhibition—a “water taboo”—on using water as a weapon. Focused process tracing exposes the legal-normative developments in the international community that have prioritized water’s protection, even where its weaponization offered strategic benefits. These findings offer new avenues for research and policy to better understand and uphold this taboo into the future.

The Rule of Law and the Role of Strategy in U.S. Nuclear Doctrine

Scott D. Sagan

When properly applied, the key principles of the law of armed conflict—distinction, proportionality, and precaution—have a profound impact on U.S. nuclear doctrine. Specifically, some, but by no means all, potential nuclear counterforce attacks against legitimate military targets are legal. Any countervalue attack against enemy civilians, however, would be illegal, even in reprisal for a strike against U.S. or allied civilians—contrary to what is implied in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.

The Future Costs of Methane Emissions

James Hammitt

An analysis of the costs of climate change caused by adding one tonne of methane to the atmosphere finds that high-income regions of the world should spend much more on efforts to lower such emissions than should low-income regions.

Which efforts should we collectively undertake to decrease emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases? One answer is that any action aimed at decreasing such emissions should be taken if the cost involved is smaller than the social cost — the monetary value of future damage caused by letting the gas escape to the atmosphere. Writing in Nature, Errickson et al.1 report estimates of the social cost of methane emissions (SC-CH4), to which one of the main contributors is cattle farming. Their estimates are smaller than those adopted by the US government under the administration of then-president Barack Obama, even though they incorporate new, higher estimates of the warming effect of one tonne of methane. Much of the decrease is because the authors use a more sophisticated approach to calibrate their models to historical climate-system observations....

Globalization, Geopolitics, and the U.S.–China Rivalry after Covid-19

Graeme Thompson 

The Covid-19 crisis has prompted ongoing debates over the implications of the pandemic for the future of globalization, international order, and the deepening U.S.–China strategic rivalry. Too often, however, these debates betray a disinclination to think historically about the nature of globalization. Yet globalization has deep historical roots, and its development and periodic crises throughout history have been closely linked to shifting geopolitical conditions. This article therefore argues and seeks to demonstrate that "global history," with its roots in the study of empires and transnational integration, provides a useful intellectual framework for better understanding the powerful forces currently reshaping the international system—most significantly geopolitical competition and economic decoupling between the United States and China in the age of Covid-19.

The High‐​Speed Rail Money Sink: Why the United States Should Not Spend Trillions on Obsolete Technology

By Randal O’Toole

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg’s proposal to make the United States a “world leader” in high‐​speed rail would add more than $4 trillion to the federal debt for construction of new rail lines plus tens of billions of dollars of annual deficit spending to subsidize operating costs. In exchange, such a high‐​speed rail network is likely to carry less than 2 percent of the nation’s passenger travel and no freight.

High‐​speed trains were rendered obsolete in 1958, six years before Japan opened its first bullet train, when Boeing’s 707 entered commercial service; the airliner could cruise at more than twice the top speeds of the fastest scheduled high‐​speed trains today. Air travel cost more than rail travel in 1964, but average airfares today are less than a fifth of the average fares paid by riders of the Amtrak Acela, the only high‐​speed train operating in the United States.

The main disadvantage of high‐​speed trains, other than their slow speeds compared with air travel, is that they require a huge amount of infrastructure that must be built and maintained to extremely precise standards. Since the United States is struggling to maintain the infrastructure it already has—particularly its urban rail transit systems and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, which together have more than $200 billion in maintenance backlogs—it makes no sense to build more infrastructure that the nation won’t be able to afford to maintain.

Halving Global CO2 Emissions by 2050: Technologies and Costs

Alexandre Strapasson 

This study provides a whole-systems simulation on how to halve global CO2 emissions by 2050, compared to 2010, with an emphasis on technologies and costs, in order to avoid a dangerous increase in the global mean surface temperature by end the of this century. There still remains uncertainty as to how much a low-carbon energy system costs compared to a high-carbon system. Integrated assessment models (IAMs) show a large range of costs of mitigation towards the 2°C target, with up to an order of magnitude difference between the highest and lowest cost, depending on a number of factors including model structure, technology availability and costs, and the degree of feedback with the wider macro-economy. A simpler analysis potentially serves to highlight where costs fall and to what degree. Here we show that the additional cost of a low-carbon energy system is less than 1% of global GDP more than a system resulting from low mitigation effort. The proposed approach aligns with some previous IAMs and other projections discussed in the paper, whilst also providing a clearer and more detailed view of the world. Achieving this system by 2050, with CO2 emissions of about 15GtCO2, depends heavily on decarbonisation of the electricity sector to around 100gCO2/kWh, as well as on maximising energy efficiency potential across all sectors. This scenario would require a major mitigation effort in all the assessed world regions. However, in order to keep the global mean surface temperature increase below 1.5°C, it would be necessary to achieve net-zero emission by 2050, requiring a much further mitigation effort. – Via International Energy Journal.

A View from the CT Foxhole: Admiral (Retired) William H. McRaven, Former Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, and Nicholas Rasmussen, Former National Counterterrorism Center Director, Reflect on the Usama bin Ladin Raid


Admiral William H. McRaven is a retired U.S. Navy Four-Star admiral and the former Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer of the University of Texas System. During his time in the military, he commanded special operations forces at every level, eventually taking charge of the U.S. Special Operations Command. His career included combat during Desert Storm and both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He commanded the troops that captured Saddam Hussein and rescued Captain Phillips. McRaven is also credited with developing the plan and leading the Usama bin Ladin mission in 2011.

McRaven is a recognized national authority on U.S. foreign policy and has advised Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and other U.S. leaders on defense issues. He currently serves on the boards of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the National Football Foundation, the International Crisis Group, The Mission Continues, and ConocoPhillips.

McRaven graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 1977 with a degree in Journalism, and received his master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey in 1991.

McRaven is the author of The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived, SPEC OPS: Case Studies in Special Operations Warfare, and two New York Times best-sellers, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life and Maybe the World and Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations.

The Ease of Tracking Mobile Phones of U.S. Soldiers in Hot Spots

By Byron Tau

WASHINGTON—In 2016, a U.S. defense contractor named PlanetRisk Inc. was working on a software prototype when its employees discovered they could track U.S. military operations through the data generated by the apps on the mobile phones of American soldiers.

At the time, the company was using location data drawn from apps such as weather, games and dating services to build a surveillance tool that could monitor the travel of refugees from Syria to Europe and the U.S., according to interviews with former employees. The company’s goal was to sell the tool to U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence officials.

But buried in the data was evidence of sensitive U.S. military operations by American special-operations forces in Syria. The company’s analysts could see phones that had come from military facilities in the U.S., traveled through countries like Canada or Turkey and were clustered at the abandoned Lafarge Cement Factory in northern Syria, a staging area at the time for U.S. special-operations and allied forces.

The discovery was an early look at what today has become a significant challenge for the U.S. armed forces: how to protect service members, intelligence officers and security personnel in an age where highly revealing commercial data being generated by mobile phones and other digital services is bought and sold in bulk, and available for purchase by America’s adversaries.

6G Is Not A Distant Horizon

By Michael Savvides

Over the past decade, various countries have been competing to develop the necessary technology to commercialize 5G wireless communications. In April of 2019, the world saw the first 5G networks go live in South Korea and the United States. Since then, 5g deployment has ramped up with over 160 network operators having deployed over 23.6k 5G networks worldwide, and counting. The development phase of 5G is over and now ‘deployment’ is the topic du jour. It will be several years before 5G is completely deployed and its benefits are fully realized, but the United States is already making encouraging progress on this front and has a clear path forward. Now, industry has already begun turning its attention towards 6G. Cycles of technology development follow similar arcs and the lessons learned from previous experience could provide a guide for how 6G will develop, and more importantly, who will dominate the field.

Isn’t 5G fast enough?

Today, 5G promises to create a foundation for IoT connected devices, smart cities, artificial intelligence (AI), and advancements in autonomous vehicles and health care. But looking ahead, even the improved speeds, lower latency, and expanded capacity of 5G networks will not be sufficient for many of the technologies now on the horizon. Some applications like holographic communications or multi-sensory systems will likely not be feasible until future generations of networking technologies arrive, and the intelligent management of a rapidly growing number of connected devices on our streets, in our cities, throughout our critical infrastructure will demand continued improvements to network capabilities.

GLOBAL GOLIATHS Multinational Corporations in the 21st Century Economy

C. Fritz Foley, James R. Hines Jr., and David Wessel

Multinational corporations are the global goliaths of modern times, accounting for huge portions of world production, employment, investment, trade, and R&D. Some see them as a big problem—monopolizing markets, exploiting workers, dodging taxes, and so on. Others see them as the epitome of modern capitalism, doing cutting-edge R&D, innovating production, and spreading economic benefits for many around the world.

In a new book, Global Goliaths: Multinational Corporations in the 21st Century Economy (Brookings Institution Press, 2021) more than two dozen scholars, across 13 chapters, examine the multinational firm from every angle.

Here’s a snapshot, taken from the book, that shows just how big a role multinationals play in the economy and how that has—and hasn’t—changed in the past few decades.

Multinationals are major players in the U.S. economy

Multinationals’ share of economic activity in 2017, by category

0%20%40%60%80%100%EmploymentEmployee CompensationManufacturing EmploymentManufacturing Employee CompensationCapital ExpendituresIndustrial R&DU.S. ExportsU.S. ImportsU.S. arms of foreign-headquartered firmsU.S. parents

Note: The original figure appears in Global Goliaths, Brookings Institution Press, 2021.

“Where’s Your Tab” and other Sad Lieutenant Stories

by Joo Chung

Four months into being a platoon leader, I earned my Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB). I became, in the eyes of many, a “complete” infantry lieutenant. I was Airborne-, Air Assault-, and Ranger-qualified…and an expert. Never mind that the next day I returned to the same job that my “not-as-complete” peers were probably doing better.

In Lieutenant Land, where experience is hard to come by, badges and tabs are the go-to currency of competence. Those endowed with heavy uniforms command attention to their ability to perform, to endure, and ultimately to achieve results. In theory, this makes sense; for example, Ranger School forces lieutenants to face the realities of what they’ll ask of their soldiers in combat. EIB validates their mastery of tasks they expect their soldiers to have mastered. It’s a self-policing system that’s supposed to filter out those not yet prepared to lead.

As with most things, those pesky elements of chance, circumstance, and (mis)fortune prevent this system from being perfect. Yet, we continue to promote critical rites of passage that are somewhat predicated on circumstance and chance.

“In Lieutenant Land, where experience is hard to come by, badges and tabs are the go-to currency of competence.”

One of my brother platoon leaders broke his leg during IBOLC and never got the chance to go to Ranger. During our EIB train-up, one of the graders asked him, “Where is your tab?”, then promptly gave him a no-go. I blundered through the lane and was just fine, by the way. This kind of instantaneous judgement encourages a tribal elitism that most write off as a consequence of the military meritocracy.

Switchblade: Era of the loitering drone has come


AeroVironment Inc., a global leader in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), announced it was awarded a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract by the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) for US$26 million.

The contract includes delivery and integration of Switchblade® 600 tactical missile systems into specialized maritime platforms, scheduled to be completed by January 2023.

According to the company, the AeroVironment Switchblade 600 is an all-in-one, portable solution equipped with a high-performance EO/IR gimbaled sensor suite, precision flight control and more than 40 minutes of flight time to deliver unprecedented tactical reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA).

Its anti-armor warhead enables engagement and prosecution of hardened static and moving light armored vehicles from multiple angles – without external ISR or fires assets – for precise, localized effects and minimal collateral damage.

All that is military talk, for a kick-ass loitering munition — which every military service wants and needs.

But wait, there’s more.