Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Minxin Pei

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The South China Sea is one of the world's largest regions of untapped resources and fisheries. Moreover, one-third of all global trade flows through its waters. Due to its rapid ascension to great power status, China has been able to aggressively expand into the region and both build new islands and lay claim to already existing ones. With no other countries capable of or willing to push back against Beijing, the United States stepped in.

The purpose of this thesis is to examine the strategies undertaken by the Obama administration and the Trump administration in the face of China’s expansion as a whole, and then specifically related to the South China Sea. The thesis also examines Xi Jinping’s rise to power and how his foreign policy has challenged both American presidents’ approaches. This qualitative study concludes with assessing the effectiveness of the three presidents’ strategies and how they situate in the greater rivalry, and provides an outlook for what the future of the South China Sea conflict and greater Sino-U.S. relations will look like.