The United States faces a new era of great power competition as a rising People’s Republic of China (PRC) and revisionist Russia challenge key aspects of the post–Cold War international security and economic landscape.
Vladimir Putin’s Russia uses a coercive mix of diplomacy, propaganda, military threats, and cyberattacks to reverse the Cold War settlement. Primarily concerned with maintaining its influence over the former Soviet Union, Russia is seeking to prevent countries like Ukraine and Georgia from moving closer to the West.
But its economic and development power remains limited—largely constrained by the rise and fall of energy markets—and it poses far less of a multifaceted challenge to the United States than the PRC.
In contrast, the PRC is a credible strategic competitor to the United States across a broad range of indicators. China’s significant economic growth since the 1990s enabled the country to make significant investments in its military, economic, and development power. The PRC has increased its trade and investment relationship across developing regions and provided significant financial support for infrastructure development—a much-desired area of growth that the United States and its partners are largely unwilling to fund. The most prominent example of these actions is the Belt and Road Initiative, which is a massive infrastructure umbrella that spans much of the world and includes projects in Southeast Asia, central Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America.
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