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

  • The guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey transits the Pacific Ocean while participating in Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC)

    Regional Responses to U.S.-China Competition in the Indo-Pacific: Study Overview

    In long-term strategic competition with China, how effectively the United States works with allies and partners will be critical to determining U.S. success. The authors of this report define U.S.-China competition for influence and assess relative U.S.-Chinese influence in nine countries across the Indo-Pacific to gain insight into how the United States could work more effectively with allies and partners in Southeast Asia and beyond.

  • An Indian Air Force Dassault Rafale fighter

    Regional Responses to U.S.-China Competition in the Indo-Pacific: India

    One of the United States' key partners in long-term strategic competition with China is India, which has the world's second-largest active-duty armed forces and is already a peer or near-peer competitor of China across a range of military capabilities. However, U.S. planners must be keenly aware of the constraints on both India's willingness and capacity to forge a partnership based on strategic competition with China.

  • A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter pilot flies alongside two Indonesian air force F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter pilots over the Sam Ratulangi International Airport in Manado, Indonesia

    Regional Responses to U.S.-China Competition in the Indo-Pacific: Indonesia

    The U.S. Department of Defense's 2018 National Defense Strategy highlights the importance of working with regional allies and partners in order to manage China's rise as a strategic competitor to the United States in the Indo-Pacific region. In this country-level report in a series, the author examines the potential for, and potential impediments to, partnering more closely with Indonesia.

  • A U.S. pilot (right) gives a thumbs up to a Japanese pilot (left)

    Regional Responses to U.S.-China Competition in the Indo-Pacific: Japan

    America's enduring alliance with Japan not only is the cornerstone of U.S. force posture in the Indo-Pacific region, but also magnifies and bolsters U.S. influence across that vast swath of territory. In this report, the author assesses the prospects for deepening U.S.-Japan alliance cooperation and coordination in Southeast Asia through 2030 to compete with China.

  • A U.S. pilot stands next to a member of the Republic of Singapore Air Force

    Regional Responses to U.S.-China Competition in the Indo-Pacific: Singapore

    In this report, the authors assess the impact of the changes in China's strategic behavior and U.S.-China relations over the past decade on Singapore in terms of its security policies and relationships in the Indo-Pacific region. The project also examines how the United States can improve its ability to work with allies and partners to maintain its advantage in long-term competition with China.

  • A U.S. sailor demonstrates patching a pipe leak during a damage control exchange during naval exchange activity Vietnam.

    Regional Responses to U.S.-China Competition in the Indo-Pacific: Vietnam

    This report explores Vietnam's perspective on rising U.S.-China competition. The report evaluates how Vietnam is responding to U.S. and Chinese influence in diplomatic and political, economic, and security and military domains, especially as U.S.-China competition grows across the Indo-Pacific and globally. The report also addresses the prospects of enhancing U.S.-Vietnam relations to counter rising Chinese coercion.

  • In the foreground, an early warning aircraft from the Royal Australian Air Force

    Regional Responses to U.S.-China Competition in the Indo-Pacific: Australia and New Zealand

    In this report series, the authors assess the perspectives of Australia and New Zealand as they implement their responses to China's more assertive foreign and security policy behavior in the Indo-Pacific and to a more competitive U.S.-China relationship. The project also examines how the United States can improve its ability to work with allies and partners to maintain its advantage in long-term competition with China.