San Diego International Law Journal

Library of Congress Authority File


Document Type



There is a shift in world power that can be felt by world leaders and ordinary citizens alike, and its movement will realign the rest of the world. Since its rise to a great world power after World War II, the United States has maintained its position as the world’s predominant leader, both militarily and economically. However, this dominance is threatened by a formidable challenger. A rapidly ascending China is challenging the United States’ military and economic power, but the United States is not adequately positioned to meet this challenge. Some scholars theorize that China and the United States are poised on a collision course for war unless both countries undertake difficult affirmative actions to construct an ongoing peaceful relationship.

This Comment provides an overview of the current and potential challenges presented by China’s rise in power as well as the recent responses by the United States. Second, it will provide the historical context of the United States’ presence in the South China Sea by examining the military and economic benefits that the United States has achieved since World War II. Third, this Comment explores recent events in the South China Sea that enable a better understanding of both China’s intentions and the political and economic pressures applied by China to its regional neighbors. Finally, this Comment analyzes the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA) which was signed into law by President Trump to address the rising geopolitical issues in the South China Sea.

ARIA will be discussed at further length below, however a brief introduction is appropriate to understand the United States’ current foreign policy approach in Asia. ARIA provides a broad statement of United States policy in the Indo-Pacific, which seeks to reassure its partners and strategic allies of the United States’ continued commitment to the region. However, ARIA is not written as a doctrine for affirmative actions to construct a peaceful relationship with China. Instead, it provides a temporary placeholder in the attempt to maintain the status quo in the hopes of containing China. This Comment argues that the United States must reassess ARIA’s limits to implement a revised policy that addresses the growing strength and influence of China on traditional United States economic partners and military allies. The United States should implement a policy that promotes continued strong economic and military strategies that can survive the periodic turnovers of presidential administrations. By promoting consistency in these policies and military support, the United States is more likely to instill confidence in its allies and partners in Asia who are otherwise subject to greater pressure to acquiesce to China’s ongoing campaign.

This Comment is neither written to object to the rise of China, nor to serve as a call to action by the United States to reestablish itself as the predominant leader in Asia. Rather, the Comment is intended as a wake-up call for the United States. China has increased its tendency to undermine the pillars of peace and stability in Asia that have enabled the growth and success of China and its neighbors. However, the United States’ recent responses are emblematic of an American acceptance or acquiescence to China’s disruptions.