Date of Award

Spring 2023

Degree Type

Restricted to Claremont Colleges Dissertation

Degree Name

Political Science, PhD


School of Social Science, Politics, and Evaluation

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Mark Abdollahian

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Jacek Kugler

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Yi Feng

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2023 Jung Lin Chang


South China Sea disputes, Spatial bargaining, Power Transition Theory, War, Policy options

Subject Categories

Political Science


Power Transition Theory has been one of the most robust theories looking into the structural aspect of war and cooperation in world politics. A common concern arising out of such a policy is when war is predicted. The likelihood of the war keeps increasing as an ascendant power crosses over a great power, also called a hegemon, in terms of relative power. Per the theory, this likelihood gets even stronger when the ascendant power is dissatisfied with the current world order or status quo. Some policymakers and researchers have predicted the potential for both conflict and warfare with China. There have been several experts expressing their concerns about what foreign policy measure should the United States adopt and how the United States should react to China’s actions and inactions. This study proposes to examine the issues pertaining to the territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea (Asia’s Quest for Balance, 2017) as a possible factor in the dissatisfaction variable of the Power Transition Theory and test the possible policy options suggested by experts to suggest/recommend a possible strategy for the United States to avoid conflict/war. The policy options will be examined using strategic tools like stakeholder analysis and spatial bargaining. The best possible options will then be filtered out to formulate a grand strategy to prevent war with China over the issues related to the South China Sea. The model proposes that to minimize the likelihood of conflict and optimize U.S. interests in the short term, the United States should decrease the presence of its military vessels in the 12-nautical mile territorial sea while establishing multilateral discussions aimed at limiting military activities in the region. The U.S. should subsequently engage China to guarantee complete freedom of navigation in the 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone and access to trade routes in the medium to long term. As for the policy option that favors risk aversion, the U.S. should engage with nonregional nations such as Japan and Australia to limit the joint exploitation of natural resources in the region in the short term. Alternatively, the U.S. could negotiate with China that nonregional States jointly develop natural resources in the long term, subject to certain conditions. The next step is to engage China to limit military activities in the region and acknowledge the western concept of freedom of navigation.