China’s capabilities and intentions in cyberspace have and will increasingly have a significant impact on the various interests in the international community. However, the study of the intersection between China policy scholarship and cyber policy scholarship is relatively recent, and rapidly evolving. There is limited understanding and analysis on what has happened, what is happening, and what China’s capabilities and intentions may be now and in decades to come.

The Belfer Center’s interdisciplinary team seeks to tackle these questions and offer thoughtful, in-depth, evidence-based analysis to inform public discourse on Chinese cyber issues and assess and communicate both the positive and more challenging consequences for the international community. 

The aim of this initiative is to be a leading resource for, and convener of, international policy practitioners, academia, business, technologists, and civil society on China's Cyber policy and the broader question of cyber power and global politics.

We pursue our research through:

  • the creation of new frameworks for considering and measuring cyber power in the form of Belfer's National Cyber Power Index.  
  • the promotion of U.S.-China Track II dialogue on cyber-related issues.

 The CCPI team endeavors to communicate our perspective in national and international fora to ensure that evidence-based analysis and nuanced perspectives inform thinking around one of today’s most important, sometimes misunderstood, and complex issues.

The Belfer National Cyber Power Index (NCPI) measures 30 countries cyber capabilities in the context of seven national objectives, using 32 intent indicators and 27 capability indicators with evidence collected from publicly available data.  

In contrast to existing cyber related indices, we believe there is no single measure of cyber power. Cyber Power is made up of multiple components and should be considered in the context of a country’s national objectives. We take an all-of-country approach to measuring cyber power. By considering “all-of-country” we include all aspects under the control of a government where possible. Within the NCPI we measure government strategies, capabilities for defense and offense, resource allocation, the private sector, workforce, and innovation. Our assessment is both a measurement of proven power and potential, where the final score assumes that the government of that country can wield these capabilities effectively.   

The overall NCPI assessment measures the “comprehensiveness” of a country as a cyber actor. Comprehensiveness, in the context of NCPI, refers to a country’s use of cyber to achieve multiple objectives as opposed to a few. The most comprehensive cyber power is the country that has (1) the intent to pursue multiple national objectives using cyber means and (2) the capabilities to achieves those objective(s). 

We present three different indices. The NCPI, the Cyber Intent Index (CII), and the Cyber Capability Index (CCI). Both the CII and CCI are stand-alone measures. The NCPI is a combination of CII and CCI. 

Researchers and practitioners should use the NCPI to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the components that comprise cyber power and how cyber means can be employed to achieve a range of objectives. Users who are interested in a specific national objective can analyze the NCPI by both intent and capabilities by objective to better understand their country of interest. 


Cyber Power Objectives Defined

China Cyber Policy Initiative Research Director Julia Voo, Belfer Center Co-Director Eric Rosenbach, and General Hao Yeli are talking to each other.

(Left to Right) China Cyber Policy Initiative Research Director Julia Voo, Belfer Center Co-Director Eric Rosenbach, and General Hao Yeli discuss cybersecurity practices at the most recent working group meeting. 

General Hao Yeli points at a paper, which shows a triangle that describes a cybersecurity governance model.

General Hao Yeli discusses theories of cybersecurity at the most recent Track II meeting between Harvard's Belfer Center and the China Institute for International Strategic Studies. 

Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has established a Track II Dialogue with the China Institute for International Strategic Studies (CIISS), to facilitate discussions between the U.S. and China, as well as representatives from both countries’ tech sectors, on the risks of cyber conflict. The Track II will explore existing and new tools for mitigating these risks and possible areas for collaboration. 

This Track II Dialogue is made possible through a grant from the Harvard Global Institute (HGI) and the Harvard President’s Office.