Date of Completion

Spring 5-5-2021

Thesis Advisor(s)

Alexis Dudden; Frank Costigliola; Alexander Anievas; Matthew Singer

Honors Major

Political Science

Second Honors Major



Asian History | Asian Studies | Diplomatic History | History | International and Area Studies | International Relations | Political History | Political Science | United States History


The U.S. government’s 2017 National Security Strategy claimed, “China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.”[1] Three years later, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the U.S. foreign policy community’s discursive shift towards Realist competition with China, with officials from the past three presidential administrations coming to view China as a threat to democratic governance and America’s security posture in Asia. The discourse underpinning the U.S.-China relationship, however, remains understudied. During key moments in the relationship, U.S. policymakers’ Realist intellectual frameworks failed to account for Chinese nationalism, suggesting a problem embedded within America’s strategic discourse. This manuscript uses discourse analysis to analyze why and how American officials failed to create a strong, united, and democratic China during the Marshall Mission (1945-1947). The use of Realist constructs, great-power frameworks, and theories of geopolitical realism prevented U.S. officials from accounting for Mao Zedong’s postcolonial nationalism, leading to the Mission’s failure.

[1] “National Security Strategy of the United States of America,” The White House, December 2017,