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 is 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

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, "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)





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?


"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.


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.