Derek Grossman

Photo of Derek Grossman
Senior Defense Analyst
Santa Monica Office

Education

B.A. in Political Science and Asian Studies, University of Michigan; M.A. in U.S. National Security Policy, Georgetown University

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email media@rand.org.

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Overview

Derek Grossman is a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation focused on a range of national security policy and Indo-Pacific security issues. He is particularly interested in China’s relationships with Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Taiwan, Japan, and the Koreas. Grossman has over a decade of experience in the Intelligence Community (IC), where he served as the daily intelligence briefer to the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the briefer to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian & Pacific Security Affairs at the Pentagon. Grossman leveraged this experience to write an award-winning paper for the IC's "Galileo Competition," which solicits innovative ideas to optimize IC enterprise management practices.

Prior to DIA, Grossman worked at the National Security Agency (NSA) where he pioneered a new assessment format to enhance NSA's intelligence support to policy. He also served at the CIA and on the President's Daily Brief staff. Grossman worked at the Jamestown Foundation as the China program manager and editor of China Brief. He previously supported the then-Center for Northeast Asia Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution.

Grossman holds an M.A. from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in U.S. national security policy and received his B.A. with Honors from the University of Michigan in political science and Asian Studies. He has published articles for Asia Policy, China Brief, Defense Dossier, Foreign Policy, Global Taiwan Brief, International Security, Journal of International Security Affairs, Newsweek, PacNet, Studies in Intelligence, The Diplomat, The Hill, The National Interest, and War on the Rocks.

Recent Projects

  • Conflict with China Revisited

Selected Publications

Derek Grossman, Michael Chase, "Why Xi is Purging the Chinese Military," The National Interest, 2016

Derek Grossman, "Book Review - Asia's Next Contest," The Journal of International Security Affairs, (26), 2014

Derek Grossman, "Despite Promising Signs, China's North Korea Policy Unchanged," The Cipher Brief, 2017

Derek Grossman, "Can Vietnam's Military Stand Up to China in the South China Sea?" Asia Policy, 13(1), 2018

Commentary

  • Protesters break the windows of the Legislative Council building on the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China in Hong Kong, July 1, 2019, photo by Thomas Peter/Reuters

    Beijing Won't Allow Its Hong Kong Integration Experiment to Fail

    Recent events in Hong Kong have posed the stiffest challenge yet to Beijing's sovereignty. If sustained, they could push China to react to protect its national interests.

    Jul 3, 2019 The Hill

  • Protesters outside police headquarters demand Hong Kong's leaders to step down and withdraw the extradition bill, in Hong Kong, June 21, 2019, photo by Tyrone Siu/Reuters

    One Country, Two Systems, Lots of Problems

    The enormous protests in Hong Kong since spring have led to fresh fears about the viability of China's “one country, two systems” policy. It's an idea that Macau and Hong Kong officially subscribe to and Taiwan fiercely resists—but one increasingly questioned from all sides.

    Jun 21, 2019 Foreign Policy

  • Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy soldiers patrol in the Spratly Islands, February 9, 2016, photo by China Stringer Network/Reuters

    Vietnam Is the Chinese Military's Preferred Warm-Up Fight

    China's last major war experience gave it virtually zero lessons to apply to future armed conflict. At some point the People's Liberation Army (PLA) will need to test its new capabilities and the training it has honed over time. There are at least three reasons why Vietnam is likely in the PLA's crosshairs.

    May 15, 2019 The Diplomat

  • Participants wave flags during Taiwan's National Day celebrations outside the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, October 10, 2010, photo by Nicky Loh/Reuters

    A Taiwan Diplomatic Victory Over China Could Be Inevitable

    It is likely that Taipei will lose diplomatic allies unless a cross-Strait agreement is reached on the 1992 Consensus. But it is perhaps equally inevitable that Taiwan will convince at least one or more states to recognize Taiwan over China. Such a development would help counter the narrative that Taiwan sovereignty is doomed.

    Mar 21, 2019 The National Interest

  • U.S. Air Force 36th Contingency Response Group Airmen speak with India Air Force subject matter experts at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, July 23, 2018, photo by Airman 1st Class Gerald Willis/U.S. Air Force

    How the U.S. Is Thinking About the Quad

    The United States has been consistent in discussing the security objectives it seeks to promote through the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. But U.S. interactions with other Quad partners have likely convinced Washington to repackage public presentation of the dialogue proceedings and manage its expectations of what the Quad can realistically achieve.

    Feb 7, 2019 Australian Strategic Policy Institute

  • Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence hold a bilateral meeting in Singapore, November 14, 2018

    Vietnam's Defense Policy of 'No' Quietly Saves Room for 'Yes'

    U.S.-China tensions are rising in the South China Sea. Washington should take solace in the fact that Vietnam's “Three Nos” policy actually offers significant breathing room for defense cooperation.

    Jan 21, 2019 The Diplomat

  • Defense Intelligence Agency director Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley, during the 2018 Department of Defense Intelligence Information System Worldwide Conference in Omaha, Nebraska, August 13, 2018

    Explaining the Defense Intelligence Agency's Critical Role in National Security

    Despite its varied roles and responsibilities, the DIA can be boiled down to just two core missions: intelligence analysis and intelligence collection. Having a better understanding of these core missions could help to properly frame the agency’s value to the intelligence, military, and policymaking communities.

    Jan 11, 2019 War on the Rocks

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping listens to a speech during an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the “Message to Compatriots in Taiwan” at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, January 2, 2019

    Is a Sustainable Peace Possible in the Taiwan Strait?

    Between now and the next Taiwanese presidential election in 2020, the prospects of forging a sustainable peace between Taiwan and China are exceptionally low. Both Chinese President Xi and Taiwanese President Tsai are dug into their respective positions.

    Jan 7, 2019 Foreign Policy

  • China's Liaoning aircraft carrier with accompanying fleet conducts a drill in an area of South China Sea, December, 2016

    The Quad Needs Broadening to Balance China—And Now's the Time to Do It

    Even in its resurrected form, the Quad could be in danger of failing to achieve its mission. The Quad might consider getting its house in order by extending dialogue partnerships to ASEAN maritime counterclaimant states.

    Oct 22, 2018 Foreign Policy

  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their summit at the truce village of Panmunjom, North Korea, May 27, 2018

    Making Sense of South Korea's Cautious Optimism on North Korea

    South Korea is cautiously optimistic that North Korea will denuclearize, and it hopes that this will lead to the normalization of relations. The vast majority of U.S. observers believe that the North is bluffing. Seoul and Washington should continue to strive for transparency about the future of the peninsula.

    Jul 24, 2018 Pacific Council on International Policy

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi talk as they visit the Hubei Provincial Museum in Wuhan, China, April 27, 2018

    Is India the Weakest Link in the Quad?

    India's sustained membership in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue would fit with the goal of balancing against China to deter it from further militarizing the Indo-Pacific. But New Dehli may be getting cold feet.

    Jul 23, 2018 Foreign Policy

  • China's aircraft carrier Liaoning takes part in a military drill of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the western Pacific Ocean, April 18, 2018

    Beijing's Threats Against Taiwan Are Deadly Serious

    China's perception of the political status of Taiwan and how close Taipei and Washington have become has come to dominate cross-strait relations. Taiwan and the United States should prepare for greater hostility in the coming years, almost certainly lasting until the next Taiwan presidential election in 2020.

    May 22, 2018 Foreign Policy

  • A Vietnamese floating guard station on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, April 12, 2010

    Deciphering Vietnam's Evolving Military Doctrine in the South China Sea

    Vietnam has sought to balance China's expanding presence in the South China Sea through diplomacy and military modernization. The Vietnam People's Army has acquired many useful weapons, but unfamiliarity with combat in the sea and air will test its evolving military doctrine.

    May 11, 2018 Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative

  • A Chinese Coast Guard ship (top) and a Vietnam Marine Guard ship in the South China Sea, about 130 miles away from Vietnam, May 14, 2014

    Vietnam's Remarkable Month of Balancing Against China in the South China Sea

    Vietnam in March very publicly engaged in a string of activities to strengthen deterrence against China in the South China Sea. But Hanoi's push to deepen external defense ties with states that can help its cause will not necessarily translate into greater risk-taking in the region.

    Mar 26, 2018 The Diplomat

  • Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) shakes hands with Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif (L) at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse on September 8, 2017 in Beijing, China

    What Next for China-Pakistan Relations?

    The recent downgrade in U.S.-Pakistan relations will present both opportunities and challenges for China. Beijing can use the recent strain to promote a new model of international development, but must be wary of becoming the sole external power responsible for maintaining stability in the region.

    Feb 26, 2018 South China Morning Post

  • A briefer holds a briefing book prior to the Presidential Daily Briefing in the Outer Oval Office, March 10, 2009

    Presidential Intelligence Briefings: The Process Is Working. But Is Trump Listening?

    President Trump receives intelligence briefings on a fairly regular basis and he appears engaged in discussions with senior staff and the intelligence community about content. Ideally, this process is informing his national security decisionmaking.

    Feb 15, 2018 Lawfare

  • Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen arrives at the Presidential Office in Taipei, Taiwan, April 27, 2017

    Why China Should (Still) Feel Good About Taiwan… but Maybe Not for Long

    Chinese leaders have ample reason to feel good about Taiwan, namely because Taiwanese President Tsai had been focusing her energy on stabilizing cross-Strait relations based on the status quo rather than moving toward independence. But because of its pressure tactics, Beijing may inadvertently push Taiwan in a more extreme direction.

    Jan 24, 2018 Global Taiwan Brief

  • U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks with Chinese Deputy Ambassador Wu Haitao ahead of the United Nations Security Council session on imposing new sanctions on North Korea, in New York, December 22, 2017

    China's Reluctance on Sanctions Enforcement in North Korea

    It's fair to question whether Beijing intends to fully enforce sanctions against the Kim Jong Un regime because such actions tend to undermine China's approach in North Korea. Beijing likely seeks to prevent the collapse of the North Korean regime to ensure that neither a spillover of refugees nor a reunified pro-U.S. Korea emerges on its doorstep.

    Jan 4, 2018 The Hill

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers his speech during the opening session of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China October 18, 2017

    Xi's Consolidation of Power at the 19th Party Congress: Implications for PLA Aerospace Forces

    Xi Jinping has emerged from the 19th Party Congress stronger than at least his past two predecessors. He solidified his grip on power and revealed significant changes to the Central Military Commission, which oversees the People's Liberation Army.

    Dec 11, 2017 Jamestown Foundation's China Brief

  • U.S. President Donald Trump and Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang attend a news conference in Hanoi, November 12, 2017

    U.S. Striking Just the Right Balance with Vietnam in South China Sea

    The Trump administration has seized upon positive momentum from the Obama administration to elevate U.S.-Vietnam defense cooperation to new heights.

    Nov 23, 2017 The Diplomat

  • U.S. Army Pacific Commanding General, Gen. Robert Brown (left), and Philippines Army Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Glorioso, salute at an honor cordon convened on historic Palm Circle, Fort Shafter, Hawaii, to honor Glorioso's arrival February 1, 2017

    General Robert Brown on the U.S. Army's Role in Asia

    Gen. Robert B. Brown, Commanding General of U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC), offers his perspective of key defense and security issues facing USARPAC in the Indo-Pacific region today. He discusses what the Army's role would be in any potential application of U.S. military power, as well as its peacetime role in strengthening U.S. alliances.

    Oct 25, 2017 Pacific Council on International Policy

  • A Chinese military plane H-6 bomber flies over the Pacific October 27, 2013

    Chinese Bomber Flights Around Taiwan: For What Purpose?

    Recent bomber flights near Taiwan represent the most concerted training regimen yet aimed at improving Chinese airpower. China seeks to enhance the PLA Air Force's capabilities and signal Beijing's will to defend its territorial claims against the U.S. and its regional allies and partners, especially Taiwan and Japan.

    Sep 13, 2017 War on the Rocks

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend a meeting at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, June 9, 2017

    China Will Regret India's Entry Into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

    Russia first proposed India as a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization likely in part to complement bilateral economic and security engagement, but mainly to constrain China's growing influence in the organization.

    Jul 24, 2017 The Diplomat

  • China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks at a Security Council meeting on the situation in North Korea at the United Nations, New York City, April 28, 2017

    How China Could Truly Rein in North Korea

    China has key pressure points at its disposal to help deter North Korea from nuclear activities. It could cut off oil supplies or limit other trade, or crack down on illicit finance networks as many of the banks laundering money for the regime are in China. It could also stop shielding Pyongyang at the UN.

    Jun 20, 2017 The Cipher Brief

  • Soldiers pose for photo during International Maritime and Defense Industry Exposition in Kaohsiung, Taiwan September 16, 2016

    Taiwan's 2017 Quadrennial Defense Review in Context

    Taiwan's 2017 Quadrennial Defense Review is consistent with past reviews on defense strategy, reform of the military service system, and defense budget constraints. It also emphasizes the importance to President Tsai of Taiwan's domestic defense industry and shows uncertainty about U.S. Asia policy.

    Jun 14, 2017 Global Taiwan Brief

  • People in the Taiwanese tourism industry take part in a march calling for the government to tackle the falling number of Chinese tourists visiting the island since Tsai Ing-wen took office, in Taipei, September 12, 2016

    Correspondence: Stability or Volatility Across the Taiwan Strait?

    Prolonged tensions — even possibly amounting to a cross-strait cold peace — are likely if China's President Xi Jinping and Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen cannot reach basic agreement on Taiwan's sovereignty.

    May 10, 2017 International Security

  • Locals read promotional boards about planned economic zones along the China-North Korea border in Nanping, China, March 27, 2017

    Despite Promising Signs, China's North Korea Policy Unchanged

    Recent U.S. statements and public discussions on China's willingness to punish or otherwise influence North Korea in a direction favorable to U.S. interests have been optimistic. But China's continued support of the North should temper U.S. expectations.

    Apr 24, 2017 The Cipher Brief

  • China's President Xi Jinping and Vietnam's Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong shake hands at the Central Communist Party Office in Hanoi, Vietnam, November 5, 2015

    China Tolerating Vietnam's South China Sea Activities, for Now

    China has probably tolerated Vietnam's South China Sea construction activities because it feels confident in its military position in the region. Chinese leaders might change their stance if they believe Vietnam is trying to enlist the support of the U.S. or other partners to settle bilateral disputes.

    Mar 3, 2017 Jamestown Foundation's China Brief

  • Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen waves during National Day celebrations in Taipei, Taiwan, October 10, 2016

    Why China Should Feel Good About Taiwan

    Chinese leaders should seek to engage in good-faith discussions with Taiwanese counterparts. Beijing should also recognize that Tsai's tentativeness about the new U.S. administration could change if cross-Strait military tensions escalate.

    Feb 22, 2017 Global Taiwan Brief

  • At a public event at the LBJ Presidential Library, the CIA released over 2,500 previously classified President's Daily Briefs from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, September 16, 2015

    Adapting the President's Daily Brief to Trump

    President-elect Trump is receiving President Obama's version of the daily briefing; it has yet to be tailored to his preferences, to which every president is entitled. The intelligence community should seek to adapt the briefing to maximize its interest and relevance to the president-elect.

    Jan 6, 2017 War on the Rocks

  • A woman rides a bike past Taiwan and China national flags during a rally held by a group of pro-China supporters calling for peaceful reunification, Taiwan May 14, 2016.

    Walking Away from One-China Policy Imperils Taiwan

    The U.S. One-China policy has helped keep the peace for decades. Abandoning it now could result in stiffer Chinese resolve. Such a strategy may even backfire by triggering an otherwise avoidable crisis.

    Dec 22, 2016 The National Interest

  • U.S. President Barack Obama (right) stands with Chinese President Xi Jinping during an arrival ceremony at the White House in Washington, September 25, 2015

    China's Actions Are Causing U.S. 'Militarization' of the Pacific

    Beijing's aggression in the Asia-Pacific is threatening key U.S. allies, causing America to respond. Any change in U.S. policy must be based on changes in Chinese behavior.

    Nov 3, 2016 The National Interest

  • Magnifying glass and keyhole

    Giving Intelligence Analysts Their Voices Back: The Case for Analyst Perspectives

    The intelligence community should give analysts a channel to convey their individual insights. This would give policymakers well-reasoned alternative views.

    Oct 20, 2016 War on the Rocks

  • Young Chinese faithful shelter from the sun as Pope Francis leads the Angelus prayer in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican, May 22, 2016

    Taiwan Should Not Worry About the Vatican

    Concerns are growing in Taipei over whether the Holy See intends to switch its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China. Beijing could be entertaining Vatican requests not out of genuine interest in reestablishing relations, but to put Taiwan on edge.

    Oct 5, 2016 PacNet, CSIS

  • Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen waves during her inauguration ceremony in Taipei, Taiwan, May 20, 2016

    A Bumpy Road Ahead for China-Taiwan Relations

    Taiwanese President Tsai has issued numerous political overtures to Beijing, yet Chinese President Xi has demonstrated a clear reluctance to accept her as a credible partner. Instead, he has turned up the heat on Tsai in an attempt to undermine her administration.

    Sep 22, 2016 Defense Dossier

  • Massive unclassified paper shred and uniform drop-off bins help prevent OPSEC violations

    Keeping Up with the Policymakers: The Unclassified Tearline

    Unclassified tearlines could convey the bottom line and potential implications of a classified story in unclassified terms, while obscuring sensitive sources and methods. There are good reasons to build them into the business process and culture of intelligence agencies.

    Jul 28, 2016 War on the Rocks

  • China's President Xi Jinping reviews an honour guard during a welcoming ceremony for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (not pictured) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, April 12, 2016

    Xi's Purge of the Military Prepares the Chinese Army for Confrontation

    Xi Jinping is relying on an unprecedented anti-corruption campaign, echoing Mao Zedong's dictum that “the party commands the gun,” and implementing a sweeping reorganization of the PLA to ensure his personal dominance over the military and to strengthen its ability to deter or win future wars.

    Apr 21, 2016 Newsweek

Publications