M. Taylor Fravel

M. Taylor Fravel

Associate Professor of Political Science

Interim Director, CIS

CV (pdf)

International relations; international security; military strategy; military doctrine; nuclear weapons; nuclear strategy; territorial disputes; maritime disputes; China; East Asia.


M. Taylor Fravel is Associate Professor of Political Science and member of the Security Studies Program at MIT. 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. He currently serves on the editorial boards of the International Studies Quarterly, Security Studies, Journal of Strategic Studies, and The China Quarterly, and is a member of the board of directors for the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. He is also the Principal Investigator of the Maritime Awareness Project.


Taylor studies international relations, with a focus on international security, China, and East Asia. He is the author of Strong Borders, Secure Nation: Cooperation and Conflict in China's Territorial Disputes (Princeton University Press, 2008). He is currently completing a book-length study of major change in China's military strategy since 1949, entitled Active Defense: Explaining the Evolution of China's Military Strategy (under advance contract with Princeton University Press). His other publications have appeared in International Security, Foreign Affairs, Security Studies, International Studies Review, The China Quarterly, The Washington Quarterly, Journal of Strategic Studies, Armed Forces & Society, Current History, Asian Survey, Asian Security, China Leadership Monitor, and Contemporary Southeast Asia. His research has been supported by various organizations, including the National Science Foundation, the United States Institute of Peace, and the Smith Richardson Foundation.

Recent Publications

“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)

“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)


17.950 Territorial Conflict
17.407/17.408 Chinese Foreign Policy: International Relations and Strategy (Syllabus)
17.433/17.434 International Relations of East Asia
17.418 Field Seminar in International Relations (Syllabus)
17.THT Thesis Research Design Seminar



Research by M. Taylor Fravel cited in Bloomberg Businessweek

China and India, two nuclear-armed powers with a combined population of 2.7 billion, have been in an “eyeball-to-eyeball” military stand-off over territory in Bhutan, a kingdom in a remote area of the Himalayas, since mid-June. The flare-up, one of the most serious since China won a border war in 1962, comes as the two rising powers jostle for regional influence.

M. Taylor Fravel

Danger at dolam

M. Taylor Fravel The Indian Express

Current India-China standoff bears a resemblance to the dispute that sparked the 1962 war. But let’s not stretch the analogy.

M. Taylor Fravel

Fravel named Acting Director of CIS

Michelle Nhuch Center for International Studies

M. Taylor Fravel, associate professor of political science and member of the Security Studies Program at MIT, will become acting director of the MIT Center for International Studies (CIS) on July 1, 2017.