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

Chinese Views of the Military Balance in the Western Pacific,” CMSI China Maritime Reports, June 2021.  

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

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

With Joshua Eisenman, “Building a more ‘Democratic’ and ‘Multipolar’ World: China’s Strategic Engagement with Developing Countries,” The China Review, November 2019. 

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

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

“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. 

With Jacob Heim, and Christopher P. Twomey, “Of Bombs and Bureaucrats: Internal Drivers of Nuclear Force Building in China and the United States,” Journal of Contemporary China, December 2018.

With Richard Samuels, “An Agenda for Japanese Military Reform,” East Asia Forum Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 3, July-September 2018.

Eric Heginbotham and Richard Samuels, "A New Military Strategy For Japan," Foreign Affairs, July 16, 2018.

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

Eric Heginbotham, China’s Evolving Nuclear Deterrent: Major Drivers and Issues for the United States, lead author, RAND Report, 2017.

Eric Heginbotham and Richard Samuels, How to Get China to Use Its Leverage against North Korea, The National Interest, September 18, 2016

Eric Heginbotham and Richard Samuels, "Poor Substitute: No Japanese Submarines Down Under," Foreign Affairs, May 3, 2016


Eric Heginbotham and Jacob Heim, "Deterrence without Dominance: Discouraging Chinese Adventurism under Austerity," Washington Quarterly, Spring 2015

Eric Heginbotham and Jacob Heim, "Whither the PLA: External Drivers," Whither the PLA, U.S. Army War College, 2015


Eric Heginbotham and George Gilboy, "Double Trouble: A Realist View of Chinese and Indian Power," Washington Quarterly, Summer 2013




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)