Eric Heginbotham | People

Principal Research Scientist


Eric Heginbotham is a principal research scientist at MIT’s Security Studies Program and a specialist in Asian security issues. Before joining MIT, he was a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, where he led research projects on China, Japan, and regional security issues. Prior to that he was a Senior Fellow of Asian Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. After graduating from Swarthmore College, Heginbotham earned his PhD in political science from MIT. He is fluent in Chinese and Japanese, and was a Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Heginbotham is a co-editor, China Steps Out: Beijing’s Major Power Engagement with the Developing World (Routledge, 2018), a co-author of Chinese and Indian Strategic Behavior, and was the lead author of China’s Evolving Nuclear Deterrent (RAND, 2017) and U.S.-China Military Scorecard (RAND, 2015). Heginbotham has published numerous articles in Foreign Affairs, International Security, Washington Quarterly and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book on Japanese military strategy.



Publications|Selected Publications

Eric Heginbotham, "America Needs a Single Integrated Operational Plan for Economic Conflict With China," Lawfare, December 17, 2023 (With George J. Gilboy)

Eric Heginbotham, “Pushing on an Open Door: Japan’s Evolutionary Security Position,” The Washington Quarterly Vol. 46, No. 2 (Summer 2023) (With Samuel Leiter and Richard J. Samuels)

Eric Heginbotham, “Why We Believe the U.S. Still Has the Upper Hand in War Over Taiwan,” Newsweek, January 31, 2023

Eric Heginbotham, The First Battle of the Next War: Wargaming a Chinese Invasion of Taiwan, Center for Strategic and International Studies, January 2023 (With Mark F. Cancian and Matthew Cancian)

Eric Heginbotham, “Should the United States Pledge to Defend Taiwan?” Foreign Affairs, November 15, 2022

Eric Heginbotham, “Active Denial A Roadmap to a More Effective, Stabilizing, and Sustainable U.S. Defense Strategy in Asia,” Quincy Paper No. 8 (June 2022)

Eric Heginbotham, “Don’t Fall for the Invasion Panic,” Foreign Affairs, August 2021 (With Rachel Esplin Odell)

Eric Heginbotham, “China Maritime Report No. 14: Chinese Views of the Military Balance in the Western Pacific,” China Maritime Studies Institute, June 2021

Eric Heginbotham, “Vulnerable Alliances: U.S. Unpredictability and the Search for a ‘Plan B’ in South Korea and Japan,” Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (June 2020) (With Richard J. Samuels)

Eric Heginbotham, “China’s Relations with Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East,” in China and the World, in David Shambaugh, ed., China and the World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020) (With Joshua Eisenman)

Eric Heginbotham, “Building a more ‘Democratic’ and ‘Multipolar’ World: China’s Strategic Engagement with Developing Countries,”  The China Review Vol. 19, No. 4 (November 2019) (With Joshua Eisenman)

Eric Heginbotham, “Taiwan’s Balancing Act,” The National Interest, February 11, 2019 (With Rajan Menon)

Eric Heginbotham, "Japan’s View of Nuclear North Korea: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” In William Overholt, ed., North Korea: Peace? Nuclear War? (Cambridge, MA: The Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Harvard University, 2019) (With Richard J. Samuels)

Eric Heginbotham, “Japan’s New NDPG and MTDP: An American Perspective on Operational Issues and Implications,” in James L. Schoff and Sayuri Romei, eds., The New National Defense Program Guidelines, April 2019

Eric Heginbotham, “Of Bombs and Bureaucrats: Internal Drivers of Nuclear Force Building in China and the United States,” Journal of Contemporary China Vol. 28, No. 118 (December 2018) (With Jacob Heim and Christopher P. Twomey)

Eric Heginbotham, “An Agenda for Japanese Military Reform,”  East Asia Forum Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 3, (September 2018) (With Richard J. Samuels)

Eric Heginbotham, "A New Military Strategy For Japan," Foreign Affairs, July 16, 2018 

Eric Heginbotham, "Active Denial: Redesigning Japan's Response to China's Military Challenge," International Security, Vol. 42, No. 4 (Spring 2018) (With Richard J. Samuels)

Eric Heginbotham, Editor, China Steps Out: Beijing’s Power Engagement with the Developing World, (New York: Routledge, 2018) (With Joshua Eisenman)

For a complete list of publications




Quoted in "China rebukes US deployment of missiles in Indo-Pacific," John Xie, VOA, April 19, 2024. 

Quoted in "Assessing indigenous subs in Taiwan's defense strategy: Insights from U.S. experts," Sean Lin, Focus Taiwan, November 10, 2023. 

Quoted in "Submarines Are Taiwan’s Best Defense Against A Chinese Invasion. The Island Democracy Is Building Eight New Ones." David Axe, Forbes, September 28, 2023. 

Quoted in "Geopolitics in the gray area: how China is putting pressure on Taiwan as a chip location," Breaking Latest, April 29, 2023. 

Quoted in "China drives for the biggest-ever nuclear weaponry development," Aniket Dixit, News Track, April 27, 2023. 

Quoted in "China pushed largest-ever expansion of nuclear arsenal," France 24, April 26, 2023. 

Quoted in "DC group's wargame predicts how China vs US war would end," Nathan Baca, Ruth Morton, and Becca Knier, WUSA9, March 20, 2023. 

Quoted in "Crucial role: Defense of Taiwan hinges on Japan's support," Gabriel Dominguez, Japan Times, January 23, 2023. 

Quoted in "Editorial: Ready or Not," Tobias Naegele, Air and Space Forces, January 20, 2023. 

Quoted in "If China invades Taiwan: Bombers, Submarines And Missiles Dominate," Sebastien Roblin, 19FortyFive, January 15, 2023. 

Quoted in "Taiwan would only last 3 months without US troops after China attacks: CSIS," Keoni Everington, Taiwan News, January 11, 2023. 

Quoted in "Don't Expect A Lot of Aerial Dogfights If and When China Attacks Taiwan," David Axe, Forbes, January 11, 2023. 

Quoted in "Taiwan and US Could Repel China's Invasion, but With Catastrophic Losses: Wargame," Andrew Thornebrooke, The Epoch Times, January 10, 2023. 

Quoted in "The U.S. Fleet Could Lose Four Aircraft Carriers Defending Taiwan," David Axe, Forbes, January 10, 2023. 

Quoted in "In wargame exercise, China fails to take Taiwan: US thinktank," France24, January 10, 2023. 

Quoted in "The Week that Will Be," Katherine Pompilio, Lawfare, January 9, 2023. 

Quoted in "3,600 American Cruise Missiles Versus the Chinese Fleet: How One U.S. Munition Could Decide Taiwan's Fate," David Axe, Forbes, January 9, 2023. 

Quoted in "Report Launch - The First Battle of the Next War: Wagraming a Chinese Invasion of Taiwan," CSIS, January 9, 2023. 

Quoted in "As Many as 10,000 Yanks Could Perish in Battle of Taiwan, War Game Suggests," C.M. VIK, The New York Sun, December 10, 2022.

Quoted in "If Yanks Hesitate in Battle of Taiwan - Even for a Week - We Lose," C.M. VIK, The New York Sun, December 9, 2022.  

Podcast: "The U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Who's on Top?" Council on Foreign Relations, March 23, 2016. 

Podcast: "United States and China: Trends in Military Competition," Briefing to Congress, October 5, 2015 (available on iTunes)