This paper looks at the key strategic issues faced by China in the Indian Ocean within the context of growing Sino-Indian rivalry. It makes two basic arguments: first, that China has considerable strategic disadvantages in the Indian Ocean as compared with India; and second, that India has had more success than China in developing security relationships in the region. These propositions differ from a more common narrative, according to which China is establishing security relationships throughout the region that seriously threaten India. This paper argues that, on the contrary, China faces a strategic dilemma right across the Indian Ocean that it will only be able to partially mitigate in the short to medium term. Perhaps we should be asking how China's strategic vulnerability should be best managed.