U.S.-China Competition in the Indo-Pacific

Eleven U.S. vessels steam in formation while U.S. Navy and Department of the Air Force aircraft fly overhead during the Valiant Shield 2020 exercise

Eleven U.S. vessels steam in formation while U.S. Navy and Department of the Air Force aircraft fly overhead during the Valiant Shield 2020, a training exercise focused on operations in the Indo-Pacific region.

Photo by U.S. Navy

U.S. policymakers and experts are focused on two central questions about long-term strategic competition between the United States and the People's Republic of China (PRC): How do we assess how well the United States is doing relative to China, and which country has more influence in the Indo-Pacific region?

RAND Project AIR FORCE researchers addressed these questions by first defining what influence means in the context of great-power competition and creating a framework to measure U.S. versus PRC influence. The result brings into focus a well-defined picture of the United States and China's strengths and weaknesses in third countries in the Indo-Pacific. Overall, neither the United States nor China is clearly "winning" the competition for influence in the Indo-Pacific region as whole, and they have varying levels of influence across countries. U.S. influence is greater in Australia, India, Japan, the Philippines, and Singapore than in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

To explore the picture of U.S. influence in the Indo-Pacific, download the overview report, or read about the findings in brief. Additional reports provide a detailed look at countries in the region.

Reports in This Series