M. Taylor Fravel is an Associate Professor of Political Science and member 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. 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 doctrine since 1949, entitled Active Defense: Explaining the Evolution of China's Military Strategy (under 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.

Taylor is a graduate of Middlebury College and Stanford University, where he received his Ph.D. 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. In March 2010, he was named Research Associate with the National Asia Research Program launched by the National Bureau of Asian Research and the Woodrow Wilson International Center. In May 2011, he was selected as a fellow with Public Intellectuals Program at the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

Last Updated: April 16, 2014

Books

08.01.19

Active Defense

M. Taylor Fravel
Princeton University Press: Since the 1949 Communist Revolution, China has devised nine different military strategies, which the People’s Liberation Army (P.L.A.) calls “strategic guidelines.” What accounts for these numerous changes? Active Defense offers the first systematic look at China’s military strategy from the mid-20th century to today. Exploring the range and intensity of threats that China has faced, M. Taylor Fravel illuminates the nation’s past and present military goals and how China sought to achieve them, and offers a rich set of cases for deepening the study of change in military organizations.Drawing from diverse Chinese-language sources, including memoirs of leading generals, military histories, and document collections that have become available only in the last two decades, Fravel shows why transformations in military strategy were pursued at certain times and not others. He focuses on the military strategies adopted in 1956, 1980, and 1993—when the P.L.A. was attempting to wage war in a new kind of way—to show that China has pursued major change in its strategic guidelines when there has been a significant shift in the conduct of warfare in the international system and when the Chinese Communist Party has been united.Delving into the security threats China has faced over the last seven decades, Active Defense offers a detailed investigation into how and why states alter their defense policies.{chop}

Conversation

02.10.17

Did Xi Just Outmaneuver Trump?

M. Taylor Fravel, Isaac Stone Fish & more
On the evening of February 9, U.S. President Donald Trump had what the White House described in a terse readout as a “lengthy” and “cordial” telephone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping. That alone is newsworthy, as the...

Conversation

07.12.16

China’s Claims in the South China Sea Rejected

Andrew S. Erickson, Peter Dutton & more
On Tuesday in the Hague, the Permanent Court of Arbitration rejected China’s claims that a scattering of rocks and reefs in the contested South China Sea qualify as Exclusive Economic Zones for China. The court found in favor of the Philippines’...

Conversation

05.16.16

Escalation in the South China Sea

Julian G. Ku, M. Taylor Fravel & more
International tensions are rising over the shipping lanes and land formations in the South China Sea. Last week, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force scrambled fighter jets in response to a U.S. Navy ship sailing near the disputed Fiery Cross Reef...

Conversation

09.02.15

What Is China’s Big Parade All About?

Pamela Kyle Crossley, Richard Bernstein & more
On September 3, China will mark the 70th anniversary of its World War II victory over Japan with a massive parade involving thousands of Chinese troops and an arsenal of tanks, planes, and missiles in a tightly choreographed march across Tiananmen...

Conversation

04.12.14

China, Japan, and the U.S.—Will Cooler Heads Prevail?

Ely Ratner, Hugh White & more
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's whirlwind tour of China this week saw a tense exchange with his Chinese counterpart, Chang Wanquan, over the intention behind America's "pivot" to Asia, followed by a more measured back-and...

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Diplomat
06.27.12

Over the weekend, the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) quietly announced that nine new blocks in the South China Sea were now open to foreign oil companies for exploration and development. This move reflects one of the starkest efforts by China to assert its maritime rights in these disputed waters – and constitutes a direct challenge...