8 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.

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India’s Climate Policy: From Lagging Behind to Leading the Way

Mounting a globally effective fight against climate change requires the participation of India, the fourth largest CO2 emitter in the world. Its position in climate negotiations has evolved from a state blocking ambitious solutions to a leader in combating climate change. More ambitious climate action, including a zero-net emissions target, requires international support and better access to capital and technology for the green and just transition. This is set to be a key area of the EU-India partnership. Poland can enhance cooperation in this field and join the Indian-led International Solar Alliance.

Carbon dioxide emissions in India jumped by 335% between 1990 and 2019 to 2,309.1 million tonnes, accounting for 7% of global emissions in 2019. That ranked India fourth after China (28%), the U.S. (14.5%), and the EU (7.5%). The Indian economy is driven mainly by energy from coal, which accounts for 44% of its total primary energy demand and 56% of its electricity production. In emissions per capita, however, India generates 1.7 tonnes (t) of CO2, which is less than the world’s average (4.4 t) and much less than the USA (14.5 t), China (6.8 t) or the EU (6.1 t). Yet, rapid economic growth, urbanisation, and industrialisation means that CO2 emissions will continue to grow dynamically. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), just to meet growth in electricity demand over the next 20 years, India will need to add a power system the size of the European Union’s. As a result, CO2 emissions will increase by 50% by 2040, and India’s share of global emissions will rise to about 10%.

Evolution of Climate Policy

India’s Neighbourhood Connectivity is Improving, But Slowly

Tridivesh Singh Maini

Due to troubled ties with its neighbours, India’s attempts at enhancing its transport connections in South Asia and beyond have not been entirely successful. With both the Pakistani and Indian economies facing difficult challenges, it makes sense to boost bilateral trade relations and explore new forms of connectivity. While better connectivity with Afghanistan and Central Asia would benefit India, Pakistan, too, would benefit from more harmonious relations, economically, politically and security-wise.

Key Points

Due to troubled ties with its neighbours, India’s attempts at enhancing its transport connections in South Asia and beyond have not been entirely successful.

In recent years, as a result of improved ties with Bangladesh, economic relations have witnessed an upswing and attempts are being made to enhance connectivity.

Attempts have also been made to strengthen connectivity with Afghanistan, through Iran’s Chabahar Port.

Recent statements by the Pakistani Prime Minister and Army Chief regarding improved ties and connectivity with India are welcome, but it remains to be seen if both sides possess the political will to actually make those links happen.

New Delhi needs to focus on connectivity with Afghanistan and Central Asia, while keeping all its options open.

Connectivity with its South Asian neighbours has not been one of India’s strong points and is a consequence of a number of factors, especially its troubled relationships with neighbours like Pakistan. In recent years, improved ties with some of its neighbours, like Bangladesh, have resulted in closer trade and connectivity linkages. Efforts are being made to further strengthen not just bilateral economic relations and connectivity, but also to find common ground on projects like the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway. The bilateral relationship is not without its problems, with elements in Dhaka who believe that Bangladesh is kowtowing to India.

Left-Wing Extremism in India: Worrying Trends from Chhattisgarh

Dr Bibhu Prasad Routray  

Five security force personnel belonging to the District Reserve Guards (DRG) were killed on 23 March after suspected Left-wing extremists detonated three IEDs under a culvert in Chhattisgarh’s Narayanpur district in the south Bastar region. Chhattisgarh is the worst LWE affected state in the country. This is the biggest attack of 2021 and came exactly a year after an encounter which had claimed the lives of 17 DRG personnel in Sukma district. On the face of it, the incident underlines the persisting threat of the extremists in the region, albeit at a much weaker state. Beneath the surface, however, are the enduring problems with the security force operations as well as the lack of adequate support from the central government. The Attack According to available details, about 90 (120, according to some other reports) DRG personnel carried out a two-day operation in Abujhmaad, spread over 4000 square kilometres in Chhattisgarh and neighbouring Maharashtra. Abujhmaad is also believed to be the bastion of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPIMaoist).

 The operation, part of the Chhattisgarh police’s repeated attempts to breach the sense of safety of the extremist organization, however, did not yield any results. At the end of the operation, DRG personnel started returning to their respective camps. A bus carrying 20 DRG personnel was on its way to the district headquarter took the full impact of the explosions as it moved over a culvert. Three improvised explosive devices (IEDs), assessed to have a combined explosive weight of 40 kilogrammes, exploded tossing the bus onto the dry riverbed below. While three personnel died instantly, two more succumbed to their injuries later. About 14 others were injured, three of them critically. The fact that the explosion wasn’t followed by an ambush leads the police to believe that the IEDs were probably detonated by a couple of extremists in civilian clothes nearby.

The Once and Future Afghanistan


Afghanistan has been a presence in my life for decades. As a high school student at a Department of Defense school in Turkey, I read James A. Michener’s Caravans. I was enchanted. It seemed the ultimate in distant, exotic, hard-to-reach places. Just a few years later, I was there, as a college student joining the wave of world travelers wandering through Asia. Afghanistan did not disappoint, from the first night in a 25-cent hotel room in Herat to the last day traversing the storied Khyber Pass via Kandahar, Bamyan, and Kabul. I promised myself that I would be back.

That opportunity came just one year later when, freshly graduated, I was invited to be a prospective English teacher for the Peace Corps in Afghanistan. But then I was offered an appointment as a foreign service officer. It paid slightly better than the Peace Corps, so Afghanistan would have to be deferred, though not forgotten. Eighteen months later, as American vice consul in Khorramshahr, Iran, I traveled to Zahedan in Iranian Balochistan to visit a prisoner. I took the opportunity to drive north to the provincial capital of Zabul and look across the border at Afghanistan.


Biden’s Afghanistan Pull-Out is Dead Wrong

By Robert Charles

In 2004, as Assistant Secretary of State to Colin Powell, my charge included setting up police training in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, dead Soviet equipment littered the airport. In both places, cultural discord was everywhere. Biden’s desire to get out of Afghanistan is understandable. It is also wrong. If we want to avoid another 9/11, we must secure peace.

Today, Iraq is fraught. Iranian-backed militias threatening democratic governance won at great cost. Iraq’s welfare and ours are intertwined, so we stay engaged. Backward Afghanistan, with less education, minimal infrastructure, feuding warlords, endless poppies, and instability – is objectively worse. Nevertheless, our destinies remain connected.

Back in 2003, 2004, and 2005, some things were already clear. Stability would come by inches, not leaps. This was not post-Cold War Europe, not even post-WWII Europe. These were riven countries, Iraq more educated, both tribal, troubled, struggling. On the first meeting with President Karzai, I recall thinking his palace was the first with bullet holes in windows. This was going to be a long engagement.

In those years, try as we might to train, deploy, inspire, and stabilize, Karzai barely controlled Kabul. Beyond the high plain, Afghanistan’s snow-covered mountains were filled with dark history – and dark purpose. We had yet to find bin Laden, lost planes coming and going, would lose over 1800 American lives in combat, more than 20,000 wounded. My own bureau at State lost civilians, dedicated to making life better for a land racked by internal turmoil.

Is there a war coming between China and the United States?

By Thomas L. Friedman

If you’re looking for a compelling beach read this summer, I recommend the novel “2034,” by James Stavridis, a retired admiral, and Elliot Ackerman, a former Marine and intelligence officer. The book is about how China and America go to war in 2034, beginning with a naval battle near Taiwan and with China acting in a tacit alliance with Iran and Russia.

I’m not giving it all away to say China and the U.S. end up in a nuclear shootout and incinerate a few of each other’s cities, and the result is that neutral India becomes the dominant world power. (Hey, it’s a novel!)

What made the book unnerving, though, was that when I’d put it down and pick up the day’s newspaper I’d read much of what it was predicting for 13 years from now:

Iran and China just signed a 25-year cooperation agreement. Vladimir Putin just massed troops on the border of Ukraine while warning the U.S. that anyone who threatens Russia “will regret their deeds more than they have regretted anything in a long time.” As fleets of Chinese fighter jets, armed with electronic warfare technology, now regularly buzz Taiwan, China’s top foreign affairs policymaker just declared that the U.S. “does not have the qualification ... to speak to China from a position of strength.”

Yikes, that’s life imitating art a little too closely for comfort. Why now?

War in All but Name

Derek Bernsen

The U.S. is already at war, and Great Power Competition is that war.[1] The information war that has raged in various forms since the 1920s has evolved into cyber operations, such as Moonlight Maze, and disinformation campaigns, as seen in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.[2] The U.S. National Security Strategy has recently tried to prioritize cyber and information warfare—a necessary step in our modern world. Yet, these steps do not go far enough to counter adversaries in these domains. Information warfare, combined with political and economic acts of aggression, comprises the majority of actions between the United States and Russia, and the United States and China.[3] These actions are at levels of hostility not seen since the Cold War era, as evidenced by U.S. Cyber Command’s (USCYBERCOM) persistent engagement strategy and the Chinese strategy of Unrestricted Warfare.[4]


Ultimately, Russia and China plan on winning the Great Power Competition by undermining the U.S., sowing discord, and continuing a secret war until the positions in the world order are reversed.[5] Implementing and prioritizing new cyber and information warfare initiatives as a part of the National Security Strategy will be crucial to America’s success in modern Great Power Competition. Specifically, the U.S. must more effectively leverage its cyber capabilities, as well as improve its understanding of adversary information warfare tactics, to keep the balance in its favor. To compete in this raging war, the authors of the National Security Strategy must answer the question: how can the U.S. leverage strengths and overcome weaknesses in cyber and information warfare to regain domain superiority?

China’s Microsoft Exchange Cyberattack Puts Biden in a Bind

Emily Taylor 

The U.S. had barely begun its recovery from the SolarWinds compromise, when another large-scale, state-sponsored cyberattack came to light in January. Like the SolarWinds hack, the Microsoft Exchange Server data breach exploited several zero-day vulnerabilities and has been attributed to a nation-state. But unlike SolarWinds, while the Microsoft attack was initially a targeted attack, it went on to create widespread collateral damage, leading some commentators to characterize it as “reckless.” Microsoft has attributed the compromise to a Chinese state-sponsored espionage group called “Hafnium.”

Recent U.S. sanctions against Russia, in part motivated by the SolarWinds attack, have given rise to an expectation that the U.S. will respond against China for its alleged role in the Microsoft hack. Yet, so far, the U.S. response has been practical rather than symbolic, and domestic rather than geopolitical. More generally, invocations by the U.S. of the rules-based international order ring hollow given the lack of agreed norms for responsible state behavior in cyberspace.

China as a ‘cyber great power’: Beijing’s two voices in telecommunications

Rush Doshi, Emily de La Bruyère, Nathan Picarsic, and John Ferguson

External Chinese government and commercial messaging on information technology (IT) speaks in one voice. Domestically, one hears a different, second voice. The former stresses free markets, openness, collaboration, and interdependence, themes that suggest Huawei and other Chinese companies ought to be treated like other global private sector actors and welcomed into foreign networks. Meanwhile, domestic Chinese government, commercial, and academic discourse emphasizes the limits of free markets and the dangers of reliance on foreign technologies — and, accordingly, the need for industrial policy and government control to protect technologies, companies, and networks. Domestic Chinese discourse also indicates that commercial communication networks, including telecommunications systems, might be used to project power and influence offensively; that international technical standards offer a means with which to cement such power and influence; and — above all — that IT architectures are a domain of zero-sum competition.

That external Chinese government and corporate messaging might be disingenuous is by no means a novel conclusion. However, the core differences between that messaging and Chinese internal discussion on IT remain largely undocumented — despite China’s increasing development of and influence over international IT infrastructures, technologies, and norms. This report seeks to fill that gap, documenting the tension between external and internal Chinese discussions on telecommunications, as well as IT more broadly. The report also parses internal discourse for insight into Beijing’s intent, ambitions, and strategy. This report should raise questions about China’s government and commercial messaging, as well as what that messaging may obscure.

Opinion: Don't Help China By Hyping Risk Of War Over Taiwan


A soldier holds a Taiwanese flag during a military exercise in Hsinchu County, northern Taiwan, in January. Taiwanese troops using tanks, mortars and small arms staged a drill aimed at repelling an attack from China.Chiang Ying-ying/AP

Richard Bush (@RichardBushIII) retired from the Brookings Institution in 2020, after 18 years as a senior fellow and serving as director of its Center for East Asia Policy Studies. Bonnie Glaser (@BonnieGlaser) is director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Ryan Hass (@ryanl_hass), a former foreign service officer, served on the National Security Council in the Obama administration and is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

A growing chorus of officials and experts in the United States has been raising alarm about the risk of a Chinese attack against Taiwan. Adm. Philip S. Davidson, the United States Indo-Pacific commander, recently handicapped the threat of a Chinese assault on Taiwan as "manifest during this decade, in fact, in the next six years." China is preparing to invade and unify Taiwan by force, the thinking goes, as soon as it gains the capabilities to do so. Such doomsday predictions deserve interrogation.

It’s time for a new policy on Confucius institutes

Jamie P. Horsley

In an era of tight funding for and decline of interest in Chinese language and culture programs, and a clear need for cultivating Mandarin speakers and China expertise across multiple disciplines, the modest financial contribution and native Mandarin language professionals provided through an appropriately managed Confucius Institute network should be welcomed, not castigated. This piece originally appeared in Lawfare.

On March 5, the U.S. Senate voted to deny Department of Education funding to universities that host Confucius Institutes (CIs)—the controversial Chinese language and culture centers partially financed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC)—unless they meet oversight requirements. A federal campaign against their alleged “malign influence,” pressure from politicians and Department of Defense funding restrictions have prompted and accelerated closure of more than half the CIs in the United States. Faculty concerns over preserving academic freedom and university budget constraints concerning operating funds have all contributed to the trend. But so has a decline of American student interest in China studies and learning Mandarin Chinese. These closings and the attendant inflammatory rhetoric exacerbate a national foreign language deficit at a time when training Mandarin speakers familiar with an ever more consequential China should be a national priority.

Understanding U.S.-China Decoupling: Macro Trends and Industry Impacts

Tensions between the U.S. and China have grown in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, triggering a broader debate about supply chains, reshoring, and resilience. In truth, because of the many variables at play, it is beyond the capacity of economics to deliver a precise answer regarding the costs of decoupling. Nonetheless, this study offers what we believe is a valuable perspective on the magnitude and range of economic effects that the Biden administration should consider as it weighs its policy agenda with China. The study highlights the potential costs of decoupling from two perspectives: the aggregate costs to the U.S. economy and the industry-level costs in four areas important to the national interest.

Is latest Ethiopian proposal on Nile dam talks a play for time?

Ahmed Gomaa

Ethiopia has called for a meeting of the African Union in a bid to break the stalemate in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with Cairo and Khartoum, something that is viewed by Cairo as a maneuver by Addis Ababa to play for time until the completion of the second filling stage of the dam.

CAIRO — Ethiopia has proposed holding a meeting of the African Union Assembly in a bid to end the deadlock over the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) trilateral talks between Addis Ababa, Cairo and Khartoum, which have reached a dead end.

The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in an April 21 statement, “[Ethiopia] still believes that the trilateral negotiations within the framework of [mediations] led by the African Union (AU) is the best way to achieve a win-win outcome for all.”

The statement cited Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as saying, “The assumption that the negotiations have failed is not true because the talks have actually achieved tangible results, notably the signing of the Declaration of Principles.”

The last round of talks, however, held in early April in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, failed to yield any progress toward resolving the GERD crisis.

Neither Egypt nor Sudan has officially commented on Ethiopia’s recent statements.

Russian Nuclear Doctrine, Force Expansion and Nuclear Deterrence

By Mark B. Schneider

In 2020, Covid 19 gave us a very small taste of what a war with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) would be like. While Covid 19 may be the product of biological weapons research in China, it is not nearly lethal enough to be a fully developed biological weapon. Our experience with Covid 19 should reinforce the perception of the critical importance of nuclear deterrence, which is the only credible means of deterring such an attack. The arms control regime has completely failed with regard to chemical and biological weapons and should serve as a warning that arms control is no substitute for nuclear deterrence.

The year 2020 was a good year for enhanced understanding of both Russian nuclear weapons use doctrine and the development of Russian nuclear capability. Unfortunately, the news was sobering. The revelations about Russian noncompliance with its arms control obligations in the 2020 Department of State annual report on noncompliance with arms control agreements were also very bad. This included Russian nuclear testing and noncompliance with the chemical and biological warfare conventions.

In June 2020, Russia made public a Presidential directive on nuclear deterrence. The content was disturbing enough regarding Russian plans for first use of nuclear weapons, but, unfortunately, it is almost certainly not the entire story, and, as noted Russian journalist Pavel Felgenhauer observed:

Who Will Intervene in the World’s Hot Spots?

As conflicts and crises persist around the world, there is growing uncertainty about how—or if—they will be resolved. The international order is fraying, generating uncertainty about who will intervene and how these interventions might be funded.

There are interminable conflicts, like the situations in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, which have produced years of violence, countless thousands of deaths and even more refugees. Then there are the emerging hot spots, including northern Mozambique and the China-India frontier, and any number of potential flashpoints, like the Eastern Mediterranean. Even in situations where there is some tenuous hope of reconciliation, there is also uncertainty—such as South Sudan, where a 2018 peace deal that put an end to years of civil war is for now holding, even as widespread violence continues to plague the country.

At the same time, the nature of terrorism is also changing. After a period of recalibration following the loss of its caliphate in western Iraq and Syria and the subsequent death of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Islamic State has once again become more active in the two countries, even as it shifts its attention to new theaters of operation, like the Sahel, Afghanistan and Southeast Asia. In so doing, the group and its affiliates are taking advantage of dwindling international interest in mounting the kinds of counterinsurgency campaigns needed to meet these new challenges. And a recent spate of seemingly lone-wolf attacks in Europe show that the threat terrorism poses there has faded, but not disappeared.

Deterring Iran in the Gray ZoneInsights from Four Decades of Conflict

by Michael Eisenstadt

In-Depth Reports

The United States has repeatedly failed to understand the unique requirements of gray zone deterrence. A U.S. strategy would not only facilitate more successful diplomacy with Tehran but also enhance efforts to counter other actors such as China and Russia.

The early months of the Biden administration have seen renewed hopes for nuclear diplomacy, counterbalanced by renewed Iranian proxy attacks against U.S. interests. So begins the latest chapter in a four-decade relationship characterized by largely unsuccessful U.S. attempts to deter Iran’s gray zone activities—despite vast American military advantages. Since the 1980s, the United States has repeatedly failed to understand the often unique requirements of gray zone deterrence. The current moment, with its risks and opportunities, calls for Washington to draw the right lessons from the past and adopt its own gray zone deterrence strategy to meet the challenges posed by the Islamic Republic.

In this Policy Note, building on his January 2020 publication Operating in the Gray Zone: Countering Iran’s Asymmetric Way of War, military expert Michael Eisenstadt offers a primer on gray zone deterrence, incorporating insights from past decades as well as Tehran’s recent efforts to counter the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” policy. He argues that such a strategy will not only facilitate more successful diplomacy with Tehran but also enhance efforts to counter other gray zone actors such as China and Russia.

What Deters and Why Applying a Framework to Assess Deterrence of Gray Zone Aggression

by Michael J. Mazarr, Joe Cheravitch, Jeffrey W. Hornung, Stephanie Pezard

Research Questions

What are the distinctive characteristics of gray zone aggression?

What is the status of the current U.S. and allied deterrent postures against gray zone aggression by China, Russia, and North Korea?

What are the implications of these findings for the U.S. Army?

In an era of rising global competition, U.S. challengers and rivals are increasingly looking to achieve competitive advantage through gray zone activities — that is, acts of aggression that remain below the threshold of outright warfare. In this report, RAND researchers identify eight common characteristics of such aggression (e.g., unfolds gradually, is not attributable) and develop a framework for assessing the health of U.S. and partner deterrence in the gray zone. They apply the framework to three cases: China's aggression against the Senkaku Islands, Russia's aggression against the Baltic states, and North Korea's aggression against South Korea. The authors conclude that U.S. and partner deterrence of gray zone activities is in a reasonably strong, though mixed, condition in each of these three contexts. Finally, the authors outline the implications of their findings for the U.S. Army. Among these implications are that maintaining a local presence and posture plays an important role in conveying likely responses to aggression, and clear statements of shared intent to respond to specific actions are critical.

International Cooperation to Mitigate Cyber Operations against Critical Infrastructure

Andraz Kastelic

Malicious cyber operations pose a threat to critical infrastructure and thus to the well-being of our societies. Major incidents have the potential to both destabilize States and endanger international peace and security.

To address the risk of increasingly complex and effective cyber threats aimed at critical infrastructure, the international community uses norms of expected behaviour of States in cyberspace to promote cooperation. This report investigates the norm – as proposed in 2015 by the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on Developments in the Field of Information and Telecommunications in the Context of International Security – that urges States to respond to other States’ requests for assistance or mitigation in the event of malicious cyber operations against critical infrastructure.

Information Technology and Cybersecurity:Significant Attention Is Needed to Address High-Risk Areas

The federal government spends more than $100 billion on IT and cyber-related investments annually—but many of them have failed or performed poorly, have been poorly managed, and have security weaknesses.

Improving IT acquisitions and operations management and ensuring cybersecurity have been on our High Risk List since 2015 and 1997, respectively. We testified that little progress has been made.

The federal government and agencies must take action. For example, the government should develop and execute a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.

Agencies have yet to implement many of our critical recommendations in these areas.

What GAO Found

The Marine Corps Is Known as a Force of Young Warriors. That's About to Chang

By Gina Harkins

The Marine Corps' junior enlisted ranks make up nearly half of the force, with most leaving the service after just one four-year term. Now, leaders say, they need to change the service's personnel models to build up more senior ranks as Marines face new threats.

Small units -- including infantry squads -- need to be led by a staff sergeant, Commandant Gen. David Berger wrote in a new update to his 10-year force design plan. Putting staff noncommissioned officers in those roles will be a big cultural change for the service, which pushes leadership and decision-making far down the chain of command.

Marine leaders "will develop options for improving and sustaining the quality, maturity, and experience of small unit leader tactical skills and decision-making along with a pathway toward ensuring each squad or small unit within the infantry and reconnaissance communities is led by a Staff Sergeant," Berger wrote.

Corporals and sergeants currently lead infantry squads. The change is one of many facing the Marine Corps as the service reorganizes for a possible fight with China.