Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Relations

First Advisor's Name

Felix E. Martin

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Ronald W. Cox

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

John Oates

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Rebecca Friedman

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


international relations

Date of Defense



This dissertation examines a type of variance in state behavior pertaining to international conflict and cooperation. Rather than confining this discussion to a binary understanding of state behavior, between revisionism and status-quo seeking, it endeavors to provide a nuanced discussion of the type of grand-strategic orientations states undertake in pursuit of their interests. It poses the question, “under what circumstances do states aspire to uphold, seek to reform, or challenge international order?” In doing so, the study helps to understanding the gamut of behaviors that purportedly satisfied or revisionist states display.

System-level material opportunities that are filtered by elite-preferences and beliefs about international order at the unit-level account for the type of grand strategies states will adopt. Through congruency testing, the dissertation identifies and explains order-conforming, order-reforming, order-retrenching, and order-challenging grand strategies. In this context, the dissertation addresses debates within Structural Realism on status-quo and revisionist states as well as grand strategy formation to produce an eclectic mid-range theory of state behavior. The hypotheses generated by this theoretical undertaking are tested through longitudinal, comparative case study examinations of U.S. and Chinese grand strategies in the post-Cold War period.







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