Taylor Fravel | People

Taylor Fravel
Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science
Director, MIT Security Studies Program


M. Taylor Fravel is the Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science and Director of the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Taylor studies international relations, with a focus on international security, China, and East Asia. His books include Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China’s Territorial Disputes, (Princeton University Press, 2008) and Active Defense: China's Military Strategy Since 1949 (Princeton University Press, 2019). His other publications have appeared in International SecurityForeign AffairsSecurity StudiesInternational Studies ReviewThe China QuarterlyThe Washington QuarterlyJournal of Strategic StudiesArmed Forces & SocietyCurrent HistoryAsian SurveyAsian SecurityChina Leadership Monitor, and Contemporary Southeast Asia. Taylor is a graduate of Middlebury College and Stanford University, where he received his PhD. He also has graduate degrees from the London School of Economics and Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. In 2016, he was named an Andrew Carnegie Fellow by the Carnegie Corporation. Taylor has been a member of the board of directors of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and serves as the Principal Investigator for the Maritime Awareness Project.



Maritime Awareness Project



Publications|Selected Publications

M. Taylor Fravel, collaborator for China's New Direction: Challenges and Opportunities for U.S. Policy. Task Force on US-China Policy, 2021 (Asia Society Center on US-China Relations, UC San Diego).


M. Taylor Fravel, "China and India are pulling back from the brink," Washington Post, March 3, 2021.


M. Tayor Fravel, "China's 'World-Class Military Ambitions: Origins and Implications," The Washington Quarterly, 43:1, 85-99 (Spring 2020).


M. Taylor Fravel, "Stability in a secondary strategic direction: China and the border dispute with India after 1962," in Kanti Bajpai, Selina Ho, and Manjari Chaterjee Miller, eds. Routledge Handbook of China-India Relations, March 2020.


Fiona S. Cunningham and M. Taylor Fravel, "Dangerous Confidence? Chinese Views on Nuclear Escalation," International Security, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Fall 2019) pp. 61-109.


M. Taylor Fravel, "Hearing on 'A World Class' Military: Assessing China's Global Military Ambitions," Testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, June 20, 2019.


M. Taylor Fravel, Editor, IR Theory Studies in China: A CJIP Reader, Oxford University Press, 2019 (Co-edited with Sun Xuefeng and Liu Feng).


M. Taylor Fravel, "Shifts in Warfare and Party Unity: Explaining China's Changes in Military Strategy," International Security, Vol. 43, No. 3 (Winter 2017/18)


M. Taylor Fravel, “Threading the Needle: The South China Sea Disputes and U.S.-China Relations,” in Robert Ross and Øystein Tsunjo, eds., Strategic Adjustment and the Rise of China:  Power and Politics in East Asia (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2017)


M. Taylor Fravel, "Explaining China's Escalation over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands," Global Summitry, Vol. 2, No. 1 (2016)


M. Taylor Fravel, "China's Changing Approach to Military Strategy: The Science of Military Strategy from 2001 to 2013," China's Evolving Military Strategy, ed. Joe McReynolds (Washington, DC: Brookings Press, 2016)


M. Taylor Fravel and Fiona S. Cunningham, "Assuring Assured Retaliation: China's Nuclear Posture and U.S.-China Strategic Stability," International Security, Vol. 40, No. 2 (Fall 2015)


M. Taylor Fravel, "The PLA and National Security Decisionmaking: Insights from China's Territorial and Maritime Disputes," PLA Influence On China's National Security Policymaking, Phillip C. Saunders and Andrew Scobel, eds. (Stanford University Press, 2015)


M. Taylor Fravel and Christopher P. Twomey, "Projecting Strategy: The Myth of Chinese Counter-Intervention," The Washington Quarterly, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Winter 2015)


M. Taylor Fravel, "Things Fall Apart: Maritime Disputes and China's Regional Diplomacy," China's Challenges: The Road Ahead, Jacques deLisle and Avery Goldstein eds. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015)


M. Taylor Fravel, "Territorial and Maritime Boundary Disputes in Asia," Oxford Handbook of the International Relations of Asia, Saadia Pekkanen, Rosemary Food, and John Ravenhill eds. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014)





The World (GBH/PRX public radio) September 16, 2021, "The US, UK and Australia announce a new security pact."

The World (GBH/PRX public radio), June 15, 2021, "For the first time, NATO is Focusing on China."

NPR, All Things Considered, March 19, 2021, "Officials from the US and China have met for the first time since Biden took office."

The Global Eye, CNBC-TV18, February 18, 2021, "India-China Border Breakthrough."

ETV Bharat, July 11, 2020, "Exclusive: Chinese claims on Galwan not new, says MIT Professor Fravel."

Newstrack, IndiaToday television, June 23, 2020, "India-China Standoff: Prof. M. Taylor Fravel Speaks on the False Claim of Galwan by China."

StratNewsGlobal, June 23, 2020, "Noughts and Crosses: India-China LAC."

CNBC, June 5, 2020, "Pan-India News 18 poll on India-China standoff: here's what it means according to experts."

CNN, May 27, 2020, "Resolving LAC Face-Off."

CNBC, January 7, 2018, "North Korea may suddenly want talks because of how powerful it has become."

WBUR, Morning Edition, July 13, 2016, Will Hague Tribunal's South China Sea Ruling Inflame U.S-China Tensions?


The Impact of Covid-19 on China’s Military: A Conversation with M. Taylor Fravel, CSIS China Power Project, August 31, 2021.

Conversation Six podcast on the prospects for India-China relations after the February disengagement around Pangong Tso, April 19, 2021, with Suhasini Haidar.

"Sovereignty and the Seas: Maritime Disputes in East Asia," National Bureau of Asian Research, February 5, 2021.

"China, India, and Sovereignty in the Himalayas," CATO Institute podcast, hosted by Emma Ashford, October 6, 2020.

"The Galwan Valley Clash and China's Approach to Sovereignty Disputes: A Conversation with M. Taylor Fravel," CSIS podcast hosted by Bonnie S. Glaser, August 18, 2020.

"Fingers, Boots, and Lines: Understanding the 2020 India-China Border Tensions," The Diplomat, Asia Geopolitics podcast hosted by Ankit Panda, June 5, 2020.

"M. Taylor Fravel on China's Modern Military Strategy in Historical Perspective," National Committee on US-China Relations (NCUSR) Interviews. May 1, 2020.

"Military Strategy and Politics in the PRC: A Conversation with Taylor Fravel," Sinica podcast (Supchina), July 3, 2019.

"Jaw-Jaw: A Look at the PLA's History of Planning for War with Taylor Fravel," War on the Rocks, June 11, 2019, with Brad Carson.


Panelist in seminar on The Dynamics of a Changing Arctic, udenrigspolitik.dk. His topic: China's Role in the Arctic. August 19, 2021.

Webinar speaker, "China's Military Strategy," Centre for Land Warfare Studies," June 29, 2021.

Panelist, "One year after Galwan: the road ahead for Sino-India Relations," Centre for Policy Research, June 17, 2021.

"China's Military Strategy in the New Era," Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, Harvard University, April 25, 2021.

Video interview: "China Miscalculated in Provoking a Standoff with India," TheWire, April 5, 2021.

Video interview: "What's Really Driving China's Strategic Objectives?" RealVision, March 2, 2021.

Testimony before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, January 28, 2021. The topic: hearing on the "US-China Relations at the Chinese Communist Party's Centennial."

Participant in online debate: "China's Power: Up for Debate," Center for Strategic & International Studies, December 9, 2020.

Video interview: "Creating Ladakh UT, Amit Shah’s Aksai Chin remarks got China’s attention, says MIT professor," ThePrint, July 18, 2020.

Participant in webinar: "Face-off in the Himalayas: China's Active Defense and India's Reaction," The Jamestown Foundation, July 7, 2020.

Interviewed in "Experts Explain: What triggered recent China border moves?" The India Express, May 27, 2020.

Participant, US China Series Virtual Conference: National Security, SupChina, May 8, 2020.


M. Taylor Fravel, "China's Sovereignty Obsession: Beijing’s Need to Project Strength Explains the Border Clash With India," Foreign Affairs, June 26, 2020.

Participant, "Has COVID-19 Changed How China's Leaders Approach National Security?" A ChinaFile conversation, June, 3, 2020.

M. Taylor Fravel, "Why are China and India skirmishing at their border?" Washington Post Monkey Cage blog, June 2, 2020.

M. Taylor Fravel, "Does the global pandemic open new South China Sea opportunities for Beijing?" Washington Post Monkey Cage blog, May 7, 2020.

M. Taylor Fravel, "Mike Pompeo criticized China for not respecting its neighbors’ territorial integrity. What’s the story?" commentary, Washington Post Monkey Cage blog, February 21, 2020.


Quoted in "How close did Chinese military jets really get to Taiwan?" Slate, October 6, 2021.

Quoted in "Taiwan and China: line that Biden must tread is finer than ever," The Guardian, October 5, 2021.

Quoted in "9/11, 20 years later: did the the tragedy give US-China relations a respite?" South China Morning Post, September 2, 2021.

Quoted in "US leaders say China and Russia's military ties are 'phony,' but there still isn't much they can do about them," Business Insider, June 23, 2021.

Quoted in "Alas and a LAC - The Sino-Indian border a year on," sify.com, June 22, 2021.

Quoted in "Ladakh standoff: Defining reality check," The Times of India, June 20, 2021.

Quoted in "US is misleading in its assessment of China's Taiwan threat," Financial Times, May 5, 2021.

Quoted in "India-China Border Row: India Continues to Upgrade Border Infrastructure As Chinese PLA Looks to Pre-Empt India," The EurAsian Times, May 4, 2021.

Quoted in "The mysterious user editing a global open-source map in China's favor," restoftheworld.org, March 29, 2021.

Quoted in "How India stood its ground and forced China to end Pangong Tso aggression," ThePrint, February 12, 2021.

Quoted in "How Beijing Has Adopted Its South China Sea Strategy In the Himalayas Resulting in a Massive India-China Clash," The EurAsian Times, November 30, 2020.

Quoted in "Beijing Takes Its South China Sea Strategy to the Himalayas," New York Times, November 27, 2020.

Quoted in "‘The most secure’ election; Syria ‘shell games’; China’s new joint ops doctrine; And a bit more." Defense One Brief, November 13, 2020.

Quoted in "Tibet’s shadow looms over Himalayan stand-off," Financial Times.

Quoted in "India and China are taking new risks along their border. It will be hard to restore peace." Washington Post Monkey Cage blog, September 16, 2020.

Quoted in "China’s Stealth Fighter Shot Down 17 Simulated Enemies—All In An Effort To Frighten The Indians," Forbes.com, September 15, 2020.

Quoted in "China's Nuclear Buildup Changes U.S. Defense Strategies,' Bloomberg.com, September 7, 2020.

Quoted in "The old scars remain: Sino-Indian war of 1967," The Telegraph online, September 4, 2020.

Quoted in "China Fires Missiles Into South China Sea, Sending U.S. a Message," New York Times, August 27, 2020.

Quoted in "China's Draft Pact for Everest Height Announcement With Nepal Raises Eyebrows in India," The Wire, August 21, 2020.

Quoted in "The Growing Risk of Inadvertent Escalation Between Washington and Beijing," Lawfare, August 16, 2020.

Quoted in "ASEAN to stay united in peace," Malaya Business Insight, August 6, 2020.

Quoted in "The end of arms control as we know it," VOX.com, August 3, 2020.

Quoted in "China's Bhutan Gambit," The Diplomat, July 23, 2020.

Quoted in "Deadly Skirmish Was Part of a Larger Plan by China, India Believes," US News & World Report, July 17, 2020.

Quoted in "What the History of Modern Conquest Tells Us About China and India's Border Crisis," by Dan Altman (SSP Alum), War on the Rocks, July 9, 2020.

Quoted extensively in "History contradicts new Chinese claims over Bhutan's territory," India Today, July 6, 2020.

Quoted in "India's Pangong Pickle: New Delhi's Options After its Clash with China," by Vipin Narang and Christopher Clary. War on the Rocks, July 2, 2020.

Quoted in "Chinese Border Aggression Against India Likely Unrelated to Pandemic," The Diplomat, July 5, 2020.

Quoted in "China's Military Provokes Its Neighbors, But the Message is for The United States," New York Times, June 26, 2020.

Quoted in "Old Chinese maps validate Indian claims in Galwan Valley," India Today, June 23, 2020.

Quoted in "In faceoff with China, neither kinetic nor economic conflict is in India's best interests and government knows it all too well," FirstPost, June 23, 2020.

Quoted in "Chinese casualties at Galwan: What we know and what we don't," The Quint, June 23, 2020.

Quoted in "India has closed military gap with China along border," Hindustan Times, June 22, 2020.

Quoted in "Xi plays tough, but can China afford to make an enemy of India?" The Guardian, June 21, 2020.

Quoted in "China lays claim to entire Galwan Valley," The Hindu, June 19, 2020.

Quoted in "India-China Border Clash Shows Rising Risk in Beijing’s Territorial Push," Wall Street Journal, June 19, 2020.

Quoted in "'Insecure' China flexing its muscle against India?" The Straits Times, June 18, 2020.

Quoted in "Time for a China rethink," POLITICO, June 18, 2020.

Quoted in "Modi denies any Indian territory was lost in China clash," Washington Post, June 18, 2020.

Quoted in "A Skirmish in Galwan Valley," The Diplomat, June 17, 2020.

Quoted in "Ladakh face-off | India, China agree to de-escalate," The Hindu, June 17, 2020

Quoted in "India says 20 troops killed in deadliest clash with China in decades," The Japan Times, June 17, 2020.

Quoted in "India and China trade barbs after 'gang war' high in the Himalayas," Washington Post, June 17, 2020.

Quoted in "Experts Explain: What triggered China's line of actual control (LAC) moves," The India Express, June 16, 2020.

Quoted in "The China-India standoff and the myth of a new cold war," The Diplomat, June 13, 2020.

Quoted in "Philippines Backs Off Threat to Terminate Military Pact With U.S.," New York Times, June 2, 2020.

Quoted in "Military tensions mount on the India-China border," The Economist, May 29, 2020.

Quoted in "Flashpoints on the periphery: Understanding China's Neighborhood Opportunism," The Diplomat, May 28. 2020.

Quoted in "Far from being weakened by coronavirus, China pursues sovereignty claims on all fronts," Washington Post, May 27, 2020.

Interview: "Changing balance across LAC trigger for standoff, says China expert Taylor Fravel," The Hindu, May 27. 2020.

Fravel's Policy Report: U.S. Policy Towards the Disputes in the South China Sea since 1995 (March 2914) was cited in "China and America can compete and coexist," New York Times, February 3, 2020.

Fravel's book, Strong Borders, Secure Nation, was referenced in "Rapidly Rising Power China Has Been Put On Notice Over Contested Waters," The National Interest, February 1, 2020.

Quoted in "China's nuclear arsenal was strikingly modest, but that is changing," The Economist, November 21, 2019.

Quoted in "Coats does his job: scaring people," Boston Globe, February 3, 2019.

Interview by Ankit Panda on "How the People's Liberation Army Does Military Strategy," The Diplomat, January 30, 2019.

Quoted in "Buying time in the South China Sea," supchina.com, November 13, 2018.

Quoted in "How China plays into Trump's decision to pull out of INF treaty with Russia," Washington Post, October 23, 2018.

Quoted in "How China is using North Korea in its long game against America," South China Morning Post, June 16, 2018.

Quoted in "As Trump talks trade and nukes, China quietly tightens its grip on the South China Sea," CNBC, June 1, 2018.

Quoted in "US Military Renames Largest Area of Operations," Voice of America, May 30, 2018.

Quoted in "India's China reset: An unstable world brings Modi and Xi together, for now," hindustantimes.com, April 23, 2018.

Quoted in "The road out of Doklam," tribuneindia.com, April 2, 2018.

Quoted in "Doklam redux: Winter is coming," Business Standard, October 11, 2017.

Quoted in "Deals, drills and declarations on Asia's contested waters," The Straits Times, September 23, 2017.

Quoted in "Learning lessons, not scoring points, from the Doklam standoff," ASPI Strategist, September 7, 2017.

Quoted in "India posturing, post-Doklam, has a tragi-comic feel," Asia Times, September 6, 2017.

Quoted in "Distracted US leaves window of opportunity for Beijing to expand power in South China Sea," South China Morning Post, September 6, 2017

Quoted in "As World Watchs Kim, China Quietly Builds South China Sea Clout," bloomberg.com, September 5, 2017.

Quoted in "With ASEAN Toothless, The Region Needs a New Naval Pact," Asia Sentinal, September 4, 2017.

Quoted in "Deng Xiaoping-inspired peace plan for the South China Sea," Asia Times, August 1, 2017.

Quoted in "The bogey of 1962 must be erased," sundayguardianlive.com, July 29, 2017.

Quoted in "The World's Two Most Populous Countries Are Mad At Each Other And That's Bad," buzzfeed.com, July 27, 2017.

Quoted in "China and India locked In 'Eyeball-to-Eyeball' standoff," bloomberg.com, July 24, 2017.

Quoted in "Bhutan should solve India-China row," The Korea Times, July 24, 2017.

Quoted in "Doklam: Paths ahead for India and China," the interpreter, lowyinstitute.org, July 21, 2017.

Quoted in "Sikkim standoff: China's rapid escalation is limiting India's diplomatic options; can New Delhi hold its nerve?" firstpost.com, July 18, 2017.

Interview: "Why the India-China standoff is a game changer," rediff.com, July 13, 2017.

Quoted in "In the South China Sea, the U.S. is Struggling to Halt Beijing's Advance," foreignpolicy.com, May 25, 2017.

Quoted in "What might a conflict with North Korea look like?" Christian Science Monitor, April 14, 2017.

Quoted in "Xi Buys Time With Trump as Tensions Loom Over North Korea," bloomberg.com, April 9, 2017.

Quoted in "Dinner-time missile strike leaves China having to reassess Trump," The Guardian, April 7, 2017.

Quoted in "U.S. strike on Syria changes North Korea dynamic as Trump, Xi meet," Japan Times, April 7, 2017.

Quoted in "Message to N. Korea? Syria strike adds new element to Trump, Xi talks," FoxNews.com, April 7, 2017.

Quoted in "Three China store chains pull Japanese goods in radiation scare," Financial Times, March 21, 2017.

Quoted extensively, with Fiona Cunningham, in "Why U.S. Antimissile System in South Korea Worries China," New York TImes, March 11, 2017.

Quoted in "China's nuclear missile policy put under strain by US plan," CNBC, February 9, 2017.

Quoted in "Chinese ships cruise disputed Japanese islands: How will the US respond?" Christian Science Monitor, February 7, 2017.

Quoted in "Will Tillerson back up tough talk on the South China Sea?" DW.com, February 2, 2017.

Quoted in "China and the South China Sea: Can the US stop Chinese expansion?" CQ Researcher, January 20, 2017.

Quoted in "Xi Jinping Becomes an Unlikely Advocate of Free Trade at Davos," time.com, January 17, 2017.

Quoted in "Rex Tillerson's South China Sea Proposal Won't Work," The Diplomat, January 14, 2017.

Quoted in "For China, Tillerson's South China Sea remarks increase concerns over Trump," Christian Science Monitor, January 13, 2017.

Quoted in "No, China Did Not Target a US Carrier With Ballistic Missiles Last Summer," The Diplomat, January 5, 2017.

Quoted in "China to Return Seized Underwater Drone," Wall Street Journal, December 17, 2016.

Quoted in "U.S. Demands Return of Drone Seized by Chinese Warship," New York Times, December 16, 2016.

Quoted in "China flexes muscles: Western border command stages massive drill," Indiatoday.com," December 8, 2016.

Quoted in "Prominent retired Chinese colonel sees world heading for 'Amerexit'," The Globe and Mail, November 2, 2016.

Quoted in "Photos show China building hangars in West PH Sea," rappler.com, August 10, 2016.

Quoted in "New Photos Cast Doubt on China's Vow Not to Militarize Disputed Islands," New York Times, August 8, 2016.

Quoted in "Why did China fly 'combat patrols' over the Spratly Islands?" Christian Science Monitor, August 6, 2016.

Quoted in "Territorial dispute between China, American allies could hit Washingtonians in the wallet," komonews.com, July 28, 2016.

Quoted in "Will the U.S. Go to War with China Over the South China Sea?" moneymorning.com, July 13, 2016.

Quoted in "Beijing's South China Sea claims invalid: tribunal," AFP, July 13, 2016.

Quoted in "Tribunal rules against Chinese claims in South China Sea," USA Today, July 12, 2016.

Quoted in "The Hague tribunal: the hard work starts now," aie.org, July 12, 2016.

Quoted in "Hague rejects China's S. China Sea claim: how it could shape future disputes," Christian Science Monitor, July 12, 2016.

Quoted in "Disputing the South China Sea mythology," Business Standard, July 11, 2016.

Quoted in "Actually, China Is Not Building a Great Wall of Self-Isolation," thediplomat.com, June 1, 2016.

Quoted in "China, US Butt Heads Over Nuclear Talks," thediplomat.com, May 24, 2016.

Quoted in "Did China Really Test a MIRV-Capable ICBM Near the South China Sea?" thediplomat.com, April 23, 2016.

Quoted in "The new red army," India Today, February 11, 2016.

Quoted in "Chinese oil rig's return in South China Sea, off the coast of Vietnam, touches nerve in Hanoi," South China Morning Post, January 26, 2016

MIT News article: "M. Taylor Fravel advises U.S. government officials on South China Sea disputes," December 11, 2015.

Quoted in "Washington's Muddled Message in the South China Sea," foreignpolicy.com, November 5, 2015.

Quoted in "China Pushes Back Against U.S. Influence in the Seas of East Asia," New York Times, October 28, 2015.

Quoted in "After Years of Delays, U.S. Teams Seek to Recover WWII Remains in India," WUNC public radio, October 28, 2015.

Quoted in "U.S. dispatches warship to challenge China's artificial islands," foreignpolicy.com, October 26, 2015.

Quoted in "U.S. Patrols to Test China's Pledge on South China Sea Islands," Wall Street Journal, October 12, 2015.

Quoted in "President Xi: China Is Not Militarizing South China Sea," ValueWalk.com, September 30, 2015.

Quoted in "China's President Pledges No Militarization in Disputed Islands," Wall Street Journal, September 25, 2015.

Quoted in "Chinese Naval Ships Came Within 12 Nautical Miles of U.S. Coast," The Wall Street Journal, September 4, 2015.

Quoted in "China's anti-carrier missile 'trump card'," The Japan News, September 4, 2015.

Quoted in "Military Parade in China Gives Xi Jinping a Platform to Show Grip on Power," New York Times, September 3, 2015.

Quoted in "China Announces Cuts of 300,000 Troops at Military Parade Showing Its Might," New York Times, September 2, 2015.

Commentator in audio version: "If China militarizes the South China Sea, the US 'will have' to respond," PRI.org, May 27, 2015.

Quoted in "China's not building islands for mere economic gain," NPR's Marketplace, May 15, 2015.

Quoted in "U.S. Gambit Risks Conflict With China," Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2015.

Quoted in "Chinese and US navies in sporting confrontations," Agence France-Press (AFP), April 21, 2015.

Quoted in "China's New Airstrip in the South China Sea is Almost Completed," foreignpolicy.com, April 16, 2015.

Quoted in "Reefer Madness: Why is China on a Building Spree in the South China Sea?" foreignpolicy.com, February 20, 2015.