Timothy R. Heath

Photo of Timothy Heath
Senior International/Defense Researcher
Washington Office

Education

Ph.D. in political science, George Mason University; M.A. in Asian Studies, George Washington University; B.A. in philosophy, College of William and Mary

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

Timothy R. Heath is a senior international defense researcher at the RAND Corporation. Prior to joining RAND in October 2014, he served as the senior analyst for the USPACOM China Strategic Focus Group. He has over twenty years of experience researching and analyzing military and political topics related to China.

In addition to his publications with the RAND Corporation, Heath has published numerous articles and one book. Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, he has extensive experience analyzing China's national strategy, politics, ideology, and military, as well as Asian regional security developments. He has a Ph.D. in political science from George Mason Unversity and an M.A. in Asian studies from The George Washington University. 

Recent Projects

  • The Return of Great Power War: Scenarios of Systemic Conflict Between the United States and China
  • China's Quest for Global Primacy: An Analysis of Chinese International and Defense Strategies to Outcompete the United States
  • China's Military Interventions: Patterns, Drivers, and Signposts
  • China and the International Order
  • Science Based Scenario Design: A Proposed Methodology to Support Political-Strategic Analysis

Selected Publications

"U.S.-China Strategic Rivalry: Great Power Competition in the Post-Industrial Age," in Lowell Dittmer (ed.), New Asian Disorder: Rivalries Embroiling the Pacific Century, Hong Kong University Press, 2022

Timothy R. Heath, Winning Friends and Influencing People: Naval Diplomacy with Chinese Characteristics, China Maritime Studies Institute , 2020

Timothy R. Heath, ""Dispute Control: China Recalibrates Use of Military Force to Support Security Policy's Expanding Focus"," Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies, 43(1-2), 2018

Timothy R. Heath, William R. Thompson, ""Avoiding U.S.-China Rivalry is Futile: Why the Best Option is to Manage Strategic Rivalry," Asian Policy, 13(2), 2018

Timothy R. Heath, Andrew S. Erickson, ""Is China Pursuing Counter-Intervention?"," Washington Quarterly, 38(3), 2017

Timothy R. Heath, "China's Evolving Approach to Economic Diplomacy," Asia Policy, 22(2), 2016

Timothy R. Heath, China's New Governing Party Paradigm: Political Renewal and the Pursuit of National Rejuvenation, Ashgate, 2014

Timothy R. Heath, "What Does China Want? Discerning the PRC's National Strategy," Asian Security, 8(1), 2012

Honors & Awards

  • Innovation Award, Rand Corporation
  • Army Achievement Medal (Fourth Award), U.S. Army
  • Civilian of the Year, Pacific Command

Languages

Chinese; French

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: AlArabiya.net; al-Watan, Egypt; ARD News, Germany; Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, CSIS; BBC World Service; Bloomberg Television EMEA; Channel News Asia; CNBC Online; CTV News, Canada; Defense & Aerospace Report; The Diplomat; Dwnews, China; FOX News Channel; Gray DC; Here and There, Santa Fe Public Radio; Independent Journal Review; La Razon; Maritime Security; Newsy; Phoenix TV, China; Radio Free Asia; The Ross Kaminsky Show; Sinovision; The Spectator, UK; tbs eFM 101.3MHz - Seoul, S. Korea; VOA; Voice of America Chinese; WhoWhatWhy; World Politics Review; WXPI Pittsburgh

Commentary

  • China

    Book Review: 'Isolating the Enemy' by Tao Wang

    In his book, Isolating the Enemy: Diplomatic Strategy in China and the United States, 1953–1956, Dr. Tao Wang reviews key moments in the diplomatic strategies of China and the United States between 1953 and 1956. Although the book illuminates fascinating aspects of the period's diplomatic history, it unfortunately does not offer much insight into the reasons for the relative success of these contrasting strategies.

    Apr 27, 2022

    Pacific Affairs

  • China

    The China Dream: Never Closer, yet Never More Elusive

    To achieve its goals of national rejuvenation, China needs to become a true world power. But a softening economy and political gridlock make it seem less and less likely that Beijing will realize all of its objectives.

    Oct 1, 2019

    The Hill

  • Military Facilities

    The Ramifications of China's Reported Naval Base in Cambodia

    China and Cambodia have reportedly signed a secret agreement allowing the Chinese navy to use a military facility near Ream, along Cambodia's southern coast, though both countries deny the reports. The installation of a Chinese military facility in Cambodia, if realized, would further complicate an already sensitive and tense situation in the region.

    Aug 7, 2019

    World Politics Review

  • Cybersecurity

    Public Evidence of Huawei as a Cyber Threat May Be Elusive, but Restrictions Could Still Be Warranted

    Although a “smoking gun” of Huawei involvement in government-directed espionage remains elusive, the United States has compelling security and economic reasons to consider limiting the involvement of Chinese telecommunications companies in its domestic networks.

    Mar 7, 2019

    The Hill

  • Operational Readiness

    China's Military Has No Combat Experience: Does It Matter?

    China's military has an impressive high-tech arsenal, but its ability to use these weapons and equipment remains unclear. The one asset that the People's Liberation Army lacks is combat experience. But there is no consensus—either within Chinese military circles or among foreign analysts—on how much that matters.

    Nov 27, 2018

    Foreign Policy

  • China

    U.S.-China Relations See Potential Thaw, but Risk of Military Crisis Remains

    Deep disagreements between China and the United States on an array of issues, exacerbated by political incentives to avoid compromise, raise a persistent risk of military crisis. Stepping up official communication, building mechanisms to manage crises, and dialing back antagonistic behavior could help cut the risk of miscalculation and help stabilize ties.

    Nov 20, 2018

    Newsweek

  • What Does America's Political Polarization Mean for Competition with China?

    Political polarization in the United States potentially carries significant implications for America's strategic competition with China. Leaders in Washington will need to work to mitigate the effects of polarization and manage competition with China in a stable, effective manner.

    Nov 9, 2018

    The Hill

  • China

    What Does China's Pursuit of a Global Coalition Mean for World Politics?

    As disputes between Beijing and Washington over trade and other issues intensify, analysts have highlighted domestic factors as reasons why President Xi Jinping may resist compromise. However, China's pursuit of a greater international leadership role likely plays an overlooked, but increasingly important role.

    Oct 8, 2018

    Pacific Forum

  • Joint Operations

    Huge Military Drills Show Both the Limits and the Durability of China-Russia Ties

    The appearance of military cooperation between China and Russia masks deep strategic distrust and suspicion. But despite these real limitations, strong incentives and a lack of alternatives provide a sturdy foundation for a continued strategic partnership going forward.

    Sep 11, 2018

    World Politics Review

  • China

    China Prepares for an International Order After U.S. Leadership

    In Beijing's estimation, key geopolitical developments have increased the possibility that China will face a power transition with the United States in coming years. In response, Chinese officials are laying the groundwork to manage that transition and ensure a leading role for their country in the emerging international order.

    Aug 2, 2018

    Lawfare

  • International Diplomacy

    Without Reform and Cooperation with China, the International System Cannot Hold

    No rule-based international order can survive without Chinese support. Reforms are needed to address Beijing's concerns and provide it with a continued stake in the order. The trick is to decide where compromise is acceptable for U.S. interests and to draw clear lines around principles where it is not.

    Jun 25, 2018

    The National Interest

  • China

    To Protect Interests Abroad, China Will Feature a Diverse Array of Military, Non-Military Forces

    As Beijing grapples with the realities of an economy increasingly susceptible to disruption from distant influences, experts debate how the Chinese military might protect overseas interests. Some have speculated that China may seek a military like that of the United States. Others have dismissed such a possibility.

    Apr 9, 2018

    The National Interest

  • China's Strengthening of Communist Party Rule Is Not Just a Power Grab

    Strengthening the leadership role of the Communist Party and removing term limits for President Xi Jinping have raised fears about increasingly authoritarian Chinese politics. While repression may well increase, boosting the party’s influence also increases the chance of badly needed reforms concerning governance and the economy.

    Apr 2, 2018

    World Politics Review

  • Information Operations

    Beijing's Influence Operations Target Chinese Diaspora

    China's efforts to cultivate support in and control diaspora communities threaten to worsen inter-ethnic tensions, aggravate political and social polarization, and harm the civil rights and freedoms of citizens in other countries. Such activities merit close attention by democratic governments seeking to counter China's influence operations.

    Mar 1, 2018

    War on the Rocks

  • International Diplomacy

    The Competition for Status Could Increase the Risk of a Military Clash in Asia

    The prospect of conflict involving China remains remote and Beijing remains committed to China's peaceful development. But if Beijing at some point concludes that the United States and its allies have successfully stymied its aspirations, China may be tempted by riskier methods to assert its status.

    Feb 2, 2018

    Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative

  • China

    China's Endgame: The Path Towards Global Leadership

    The coming years are likely to see a deepening contest between the U.S. and China in the diplomatic, economic, cyber, and information domains, even as the risks of major war remain low. In its 19th CCP Congress report, Beijing articulated for the first time an ambition to contend for global leadership.

    Jan 5, 2018

    Lawfare

  • International Diplomacy

    America's New Security Strategy Reflects the Intensifying Strategic Competition with China

    The United States unveiled its National Security Strategy last week, describing China as a revisionist power that actively competes against the United States and its allies and partners. China had strong words of its own in response. Both will need to navigate the relationship in a way that supports stability and prosperity for both countries.

    Dec 27, 2017

    World Politics Review

  • Military Transformation

    What Does the 19th Party Congress Mean for the PLA?

    The People's Liberation Army has a lot at stake in China's Communist Party Congress. In addition to changes in military leadership, reports issued at a Party Congress invariably contain directives to the military that can add impetus to ongoing initiatives.

    Oct 18, 2017

    China Policy Institute Blog

  • Threat Assessment

    U.S.-China Tensions Are Unlikely to Lead to War

    The U.S.-China relationship today may be trending towards greater tension, but the relative stability and overall low level of hostility make the prospect of an accidental escalation to war extremely unlikely.

    May 1, 2017

    The National Interest

  • China

    Rocky Road Ahead Likely for U.S.-China Relations

    The first summit with President Trump and China's President Xi Jinping downplayed contentious issues like Taiwan and the South China Sea. But the differences run deep, and frustration is palpable on both sides. Moreover, the competition for international leadership continues.

    Apr 11, 2017

    The Cipher Brief

  • Strategic Consequences of U.S. Withdrawal from TPP

    America's withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership has exacerbated doubts about U.S. international leadership and America's role in Asia. Future trade agreements could face similar fates until they do a better job outlining how domestic workers can prosper.

    Mar 27, 2017

    The Cipher Brief

  • International Diplomacy

    Why China Will Not Unify with Taiwan by 2020 — and Beijing Lacks Compelling Military Options

    The prospects for peaceful unification of China and Taiwan continue to dim. Nothing Beijing has tried to woo or coerce Taiwan has worked. For those determined to compel Taiwan's unification, military subjugation remains a last option. But it would only worsen China's security environment.

    Mar 21, 2017

    Lawfare

  • Globalization

    China Stressed a Growing Interest in Global Trade and Governance at Davos

    President Xi Jinping became the first Chinese leader to appear at the annual gathering of the World Economic Forum last week. He gave a keynote speech that defended global trade and criticized protectionism. His speech reflected, in part, the reality that China has profited enormously from decades of globalization.

    Jan 24, 2017

    U.S. News & World Report

  • China

    Taking Stock of the U.S. Rebalance and the Contest for Influence in Asia

    Since 2011, the U.S. has carried out measures designed to bolster its influence in Asia, a region that is projected to play a central role in driving global economic growth. Despite steady progress, with increased diplomatic outreach to China and its neighbors, doubts about the U.S. pivot to Asia have persisted.

    Jan 19, 2017

    World Politics Review

  • Cracks in the Chinese Powerhouse

    Like most countries that have had rapid development, China is struggling to transition from a highly successful but unsustainable economic model. Beijing faces the additional challenge of executing difficult reforms in the face of an inhospitable global economy.

    Dec 19, 2016

    The Cipher Brief

  • International Diplomacy

    The Risks of an Accelerating Rivalry Between China and Japan

    China and Japan have a long history of antagonism but their competition for influence in Asia has recently expanded in the economic, diplomatic, and security domains. The U.S., although a staunch ally of Japan, has served as a mediator. Weakening the U.S. role could aggravate Sino-Japanese tensions to a destabilizing degree.

    Dec 12, 2016

    World Politics Review

  • Military Transformation

    Book Review: 'China's Military Transformation' by You Ji

    China's military has undeniably made tremendous strides in recent years. You Ji's book provides a collection of interesting and often perceptive observations on political and intellectual aspects of a rapidly modernizing People's Liberation Army.

    Jul 5, 2016

    H-Net

  • China

    South China Sea Spat a Symptom of U.S.-China Jockeying for Advantage

    A spate of high-profile diplomatic feuds and military actions related to the South China Sea has raised concern about the direction of U.S.-China relations. Neither country is well positioned politically or economically to engage in a long-term, antagonistic relationship, let alone a major conflict.

    Jun 27, 2016

    World Politics Review

  • China

    Beijing Ups the Ante in South China Sea Dispute with HQ-9 Deployment

    China's recent deployment of HQ-9 missiles to the Paracel Islands signals its determination to consolidate its gains in the South China Sea, regardless of criticism by the United States and its allies.

    Mar 29, 2016

    Jamestown Foundation's China Brief

  • China

    China's Naval Modernization: Where Is It Headed?

    The PLA Navy is expanding its capabilities and operations to reduce vulnerabilities in China’s near seas, but also to aggressively support its expanding global ambitions and challenge U.S. leadership in Asia.

    Feb 10, 2016

    World Politics Review

  • Missile Defense

    How China's New Russian Air Defense System Could Change Asia

    The Russian S-400 TRIUMF surface to air missile entered the media spotlight when Moscow deployed the system after Turkey's shoot-down of a Russian plane near the Syria border on Thanksgiving Day. This episode demonstrated the S-400's potential as a weapon with strategic effects, a role that China may seek to exploit in future crises.

    Jan 21, 2016

    War on the Rocks

  • Security Cooperation

    Book Review: 'Strategic Asia 2015-16, Foundations of National Power in the Asia-Pacific'

    Which nations have the resources and motivations to either cooperate with or frustrate Washington's designs? What liabilities and assets reside with each country? The book, Strategic Asia 2015-16, surveys some of the most powerful nations in Asia with such questions in mind.

    Nov 30, 2015

    War on the Rocks

  • China

    How Will China Respond to Future U.S. Freedom of Navigation Operations?

    On October 27, the USS Lassen carried out the first freedom of navigation patrol to challenge China's territorial claims in the South China Sea. In assessing China's potential response to follow-on operations, the extremes of either complete inaction or a military attack can be ruled out.

    Oct 29, 2015

    Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, CSIS

  • China

    Xi's Visit Exposes Mismatch in U.S and Chinese Expectations

    Chinese President Xi Jinping's U.S. visit this week appears to face serious headwinds. Contrasting U.S. and Chinese priorities will likely lead to disappointment on both sides.

    Sep 23, 2015

    World Politics Review

  • China

    The 'Holistic Security Concept': The Securitization of Policy and Increasing Risk of Militarized Crisis

    Reflecting critical developments under the Xi administration, China's recent 'Military Strategy' white paper signals a turn toward a potentially more coercive phase of China's rise.

    Jun 27, 2015

    China Brief

  • China

    China's Emerging Vision for World Order

    China's mulling of the risks and benefits of assuming greater global responsibility reveals its judgment that it can't entrust the protection of its interests to U.S. goodwill.

    May 21, 2015

    The National Interest

  • China

    China's Island-Building Stirs Fears, but Creates Openings for U.S.

    News of proposed Navy patrols nearby disputed islands claimed by China suggests that the United States is toughening its response to Beijing's assertive territorial claims in the South China Sea.

    May 18, 2015

    World Politics Review

  • Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation

    A Thaw in Asia

    Chinese President Xi Jinping's meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this week raised hope for the near term that the leaders of both countries can ease tensions between Asia's two largest economies.

    Nov 17, 2014

    U.S. News & World Report

  • International Diplomacy

    Engagement and Assurance: Debating the U.S.-Chinese Relationship

    The risks of strategic rivalry with China deserve serious attention. But the best way to avoid the destabilizing effects of military competition is sustained U.S. engagement with China and the region -- precisely what U.S. policy has been seeking to achieve.

    Nov 6, 2014

    The National Interest

Publications