Thomas J. Christensen

Alastair Iain Johnston 江憶恩


  • Deputy Director

Chen Yali (Lily)

  • 2016-2017 Fellow

Nate Adler

  • Alumni Student Affiliate

Taylor Fravel

2006-2007 Fellow
Office Location:
M. Taylor Fravel is Associate Professor of Political Science and member of the Security Studies Program at MIT. He studies international relations, with a focus on international security, China and East Asia. His current projects examine the evolution of China’s military strategy since 1949 and the relationship between material capabilities and political influence in China’s rise as a great power.

Taylor’s first book, Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China’s Territorial Disputes, was published by Princeton University Press in 2008 (Series in International History and Politics). His other publications have appeared inInternational Security, Foreign Affairs, Security Studies, International Studies Review, The China Quarterly, The Washington Quarterly, Journal of Strategic Studies, Armed Forces & Society, Current History, and Asian Survey as well as in edited volumes. His research has been supported by various organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the United States Institute of Peace, and the Smith Richardson Foundation. In March 2010, he was named Research Associate with the National Asia Research Program launched by the National Bureau of Asian Research and the Woodrow Wilson International Center.

Taylor is a graduate of Middlebury College and Stanford University, where he received his PhD. He has been a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University, a Predoctoral Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, a Fellow with the Princeton-Harvard China and the World Program and a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He also has graduate degrees from the London School of Economics and Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.


Single-Authored Books

Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China’s Territorial Disputes. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008. Princeton Studies in International Relations and History. Cloth and paperback.
Active Defense: The Evolution of China’s Military Strategy (book manuscript under advance contract with Princeton University Press)

Edited Books and Online Readers

Debating China-US Relations: A CJIP Reader (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) (Co-edited
with Sun Xuefeng and Liu Feng) [e-reader]

Understanding China's Foreign Policy Transformation: A Reader (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2014) (Co-edited with Sun Xuefeng and Liu Feng) [e-reader]

China in the Asia-Pacific: A CJIP Reader (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) (Co-edited
with Sun Xuefeng and Matt Ferchen) [e-reader]

China's Rise and International Norms: A CJIP Reader (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012)
(Co-edited with Sun Xuefeng and Matt Ferchen) [e-reader]

China and East Asian Order: A Reader. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011) (Co-edited with
Sun Xuefeng and Matt Ferchen) [e-reader]

Rethinking China’s Rise: A Reader. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) (Co-edited with Sun
Xuefeng and Matt Ferchen)
Journal Articles and Book Chapters

“Qualitative Investigations of Theoretical Models: The Value of Process Tracing,” Journal of
Theoretical Politics (forthcoming, with Peter Lorentzen and Jack Paine)

“China’s Changing Approach to Military Strategy: The Science of Military Strategy from 2001 to
2013,” in Joe McReynolds, ed., China’s Evolving Military Strategy (Washington, DC: Brookings
Press, forthcoming)

“Assuring Assured Retaliation: China’s Nuclear Strategy and U.S.-China Strategic Stability,”
International Security Vol. 40, No. 2 (Fall 2015) (with Fiona S. Cunningham)

“The PLA and National Security Decisionmaking: Insights from China’s Territorial and Maritime
Disputes,” in Phillip Saunders and Andrew Scobell, eds., The PLA’s Role in National Security
Policy-Making (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2015)

“China’s New Military Strategy: ‘Winning Informationized Local Wars,’” China Brief Vol. 15, No.
13 (June 2015)

“Projecting Strategy: The Myth of Chinese Counter-Intervention,” The Washington Quarterly
Vol. 37, No. 4 (Winter 2015) (with Christopher P. Twomey)
“Things Fall Apart: Maritime Disputes and China’s Regional Diplomacy,” in Jacques deLisle and
Avery Goldstein, eds., China’s Challenges: The Road Ahead (Philadelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 2015)

“Territorial and Maritime Boundary Disputes in Asia,” in Saadia Pekkanen, Rosemary Foot, and
John Ravenhill, Oxford Handbook of the International Relations of Asia (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2014)

“The Challenge of Maritime Disputes,” in China Association for Military Science, ed., Asia-
Pacific Security: New Issues and New Ideas (Beijing: Junshi kexue chubanshe, 2014)

“Growing Competition in the South China Sea,” in Michael McDevitt, ed., The Long Littoral
Project: South China Sea (Washington, DC: Center for Naval Analysis, 2013)

“Maritime Security in the South China Sea and the Competition over Maritime Rights,” in
Patrick Cronin and William Rogers, eds., Asia in the Balance: U.S. Strategy in the South China
Sea (Washington, DC: Center for New American Security, 2012)

“China’s Strategy in the South China Sea,” Contemporary Southeast Asia, Vol. 33, No. 3
(December 2011)

“Beyond the Moat: The PLAN’s Evolving Interests and Potential Influence,” in Phil Saunders et
al., eds., The Chinese Navy: Expanding Capabilities, Evolving Roles (National Defense University
Press, 2011) (with Alex Liebman)

“Economic Growth, Regime Insecurity, and Military Strategy: Explaining the Rise of Non-
Combat Operations in China,” Asian Security, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Fall 2011)
Reprinted in Avery Goldstein and Edward Mansfield, eds., The Nexus of Economics, Security,
and International Relations in East Asia (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2012)

“China’s Assertive Behavior – Part Two: The Maritime Periphery,” China Leadership Monitor, No.
35 (Summer 2011) (with Michael D. Swaine).

“China Views India’s Rise: Deepening Cooperation, Managing Differences,” in Ashley Tellis,
Travis Tanner, and Jessica Keogh, eds., Strategic Asia 2011–12: Asia Responds to Its Rising
Powers—China and India (Seattle: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2011)

“International Relations Theory and China’s Rise: Assessing China’s Potential for Territorial
Expansion,” International Studies Review, Vol. 12, No. 4 (December 2010)

“China’s Search for Assured Retaliation: Explaining the Evolution of China’s Nuclear Strategy,”
International Security, Vol. 35, No 2 (Fall 2010) (with Evan S. Medeiros)

“The Limits of Diversion: Rethinking Internal and External Conflict,” Security Studies, Vol. 19,
No. 2 (May 2010)

“Explaining Stability in the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Dispute,” in Gerald Curtis, Ryosei Kokubun and
Wang Jisi, eds., Getting the Triangle Straight: Managing China-Japan-US Relations (Washington,
DC: The Brookings Institution Press, 2010)

Reprinted in Japanese as:“Senkaku/Diaoyu Shoto mondai ha naze antei shite iru no ka,” in
Sankyoku o toku: Nichibeichu kankei no kizo to tenbo” (Iwanami Shoten, 2010)
“Zhongguo junshi jueqi chutan [A Preliminary Analysis of China’s Military Rise], Zhongguo
Guoji Zhanlue Pinglun, No. 2, 2009, pp. 292-311

“China’s Search for Military Power,” The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 3 (Summer 2008)

“Power Shifts and Escalation: Explaining China’s Use of Force in Territorial Disputes,”
International Security, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Winter 2007/2008)

“Securing Borders: China’s Doctrine and Force Structure for Frontier Defense,” Journal of
Strategic Studies, Vol. 30, No. 4 (August 2007)

“The Structural Sources of China’s Compromises,” International Security, Vol. 31, No. 2 (Fall

“Regime Insecurity and International Cooperation: Explaining China’s Compromises in
Territorial Disputes,” International Security, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Fall 2005)

“The Evolution of China’s Military Strategy,” in David Finkelstein and James C. Mulvenon, eds.,
China’s Revolution in Doctrinal Affairs, (Alexandria: Center for Naval Analysis, 2005)

“China’s New Diplomacy,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 82, No. 6 (November/December 2003) (with
Evan S. Medeiros)

Reprinted in Chinese as “Zhongguo xin waijiao,” in Men Honghua, ed., Zhongguo: Daguo
jueqi (Hangzhou: Zhejiang Renmin Chubanshe, 2004)

Reprinted in Liu Guoli, ed., Chinese Foreign Policy in Transition, (New York: Aldine de
Gruyter, 2004)

“The Revolution in Research Affairs: Online Sources for the Study of the PLA,” in James C.
Mulvenon and Andrew N.D. Yang, eds., Poverty of Riches: New Challenges and Opportunities in
PLA Research, (Santa Monica: RAND Corp, 2003)
“Towards Civilian Supremacy: Civil-Military Relations in Taiwan’s Democratization,” Armed
Forces & Society, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Fall 2002)

“Online and On China: Research Sources in the Information Age,” The China Quarterly, No.
163 (September 2000)

“Red Herring Hegemon: China and the South China Sea,” Current History, Vol. 96, No. 611
(September 1997) (with William J. Dobson)

“China and United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, 1990-1995,” Asian Survey, Vol. 36, No. 11
(November 1996)

Other Publications

Conflict and Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region: A Strategic Net Assessment (Washington,
DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2015) (with Michael D. Swaine, Nicholas
Eberstadt, Mikkal Herberg, Albert Keidel, Evans J.R. Revere, Alan Romberg, Eleanor Freund,
Rachel Esplin Odell, and Audrye Wong)
U.S. Policy toward the Disputes in the South China Sea since 1995, Policy Brief, S. Rajaratnam
School of International Studies (Singapore: Nanyang Technological University, March 2014)
Reprinted in Enrico Fels and Truong-Minh Vu, eds., Power Politics in Asia’s Contested Waters:
Territorial Disputes in the South China Sea (Springer, 2016)

“Q & A: M. Taylor Fravel on China's Dispute With Vietnam,” Sinosphere, The New York Times,
May 8, 2014

“Chinese Signaling in the East China Sea?,” The Monkey Cage, The Washington Post, April 12,

“The Dangerous Math of Chinese Island Disputes,” The Asian Wall Street Journal and The Wall
Street Journal, October 28, 2012

“How to Defuse South China Sea Conflicts,” The Asian Wall Street Journal, June 26, 2012

“The Asian Arms Race that Wasn’t,” Foreign Policy, May 8, 2012 (with Vipin Narang)

“All Quiet in the South China Sea: Why China is Playing Nice (For Now),” Foreign Affairs, March
22, 2012

“Why ‘Non-Combat’ PLA Operations Are Vital for China’s Regime Stability,” Global Asia, Vol. 6,
No. 2 (Summer 2011)

“US-China Relations and China’s New Diplomacy,” Working Paper Series, No. 18, Rohatyn
Center for International Affairs, 2005
“The United States as an Asian Power: Realism or Conceit?”, Center for International Studies
Audit of the Conventional Wisdom, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, April 2005 (with
Richard J. Samuels)

Net Assessment: Online Sources for the Study of the PLA (Santa Monica: RAND Corp, DRR-3283,
April 2004)

“The Changing Face of Chinese Diplomacy,” The Asian Wall Street Journal, 25 November 2003
(with Evan S. Medeiros)

Editor, China Foreign Policy Net, (, 1999-2004. An
online portal for information sources on Chinese foreign policy.

“How the Internet Will (Not) Change China,” Asia/Pacific Research Center, Intelligence Fax, No.
18, (September 2000)

“The Bureaucrats’ Battle over the Internet in China,” Virtual China, (Feb. 18, 2000)
Person category: