First Advisor

David Kinsella

Term of Graduation

Spring 2022

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Political Science


Political Science




China -- Foreign relations, United States -- Foreign relations, China -- Foreign economic relations, United States -- Foreign economic relations, World politics



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 93 pages)


For centuries, "Great Powers" competed for global hegemony not only through building up military strength and amassing wealth, but through the formal acquisition of distant lands, conquered and folded into their borders. Today, core states continue to vie for global power, but no longer exert formal control or sovereignty over less powerful states. So how has the nature of great power competition in peripheral states changed? Most scholars studying great power competition measure power in terms of military and economic resources, often failing to account for a third, crucial dimension in international power politics: the impact of distributed networks of geographical control on a state's ability to wage war, expand economically, and fully utilize the coercive and co-optive potential of economic and military clout. Tracing this pattern of distributed geographical control through historical case studies and using a unique combination of data sets cataloguing the United States' global network of military bases and China's growing global network of infrastructure investments and loans, this thesis demonstrates that "pointillist imperialism" is the latest mechanism by which great and rising powers establish and grow their real and potential power across the globe. Much scholarship has been devoted to analyzing the United States' basing network and China's growing web of strategic global investments, but no one has previously looked at these two, separate power acquisition strategies as twin, parallel branches of the same process. Pointillism, distributed geographical control, serves as the connective tissue between the two. Both the U.S. and the China are playing the same old "great power" games, but they employ distinctly different strategies in their quests for global hegemony.


© 2022 Andrew Jesse Shaughnessy

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