By Robert Mindolovich
Perhaps you, as an American citizen, don’t immediately think of China and Russia when someone asks which countries are a threat to United States supremacy in the world. Perhaps you don’t think of any country at all. The United States has been the single most dominant world superpower since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and even before then we were recognized with incredible esteem. But now, with Vladimir Putin in office in Russia, and Xi Jinping in China, these countries have been increasing their power and influence almost as quickly as they are increasing their anti-western sentiment.
Over the last 30 years, China has “capitalized,” and took advantage of its massive labor force. Its economy has boomed (with an official 7% growth each year) because of how dependent other nations are on its exports. Now under Xi Jinping’s presidency, china has expressed expansionist and militaristic goals. Over the last year, the Chinese government has claimed over 80% of the South China Sea, a body of water disputed over by many Southeast Asian countries. These waters are actually supposed to be international, however the Chinese military has constructed air base islands in various places around the sea to assert military dominance. This is disrupting international trade, and local economies of coastal towns. This has caused tensions between western powers (mostly the United States) and China.
China is also refitting its nuclear arsenal, and expanding its navy to include an aircraft carrier. Not only that, but there have been several cyber-attacks on the United States sourced from China, which have hardly benefited the relationships between the two. What I think this shows is China attempting to become more of a global influence. They could be positioning themselves to overtake the United States as the greatest economy and model nation in the world. If this were the case, China would have to take militaristic and political movements to prepare itself for a transition such as that. Movements such as the ones they’ve been taking in the past 10 years.
As for Russia, ever since Putin regained control in 2012, the country has expressed expansionist goals as well, through the encroachment into Georgia, annexation of Crimea, and the support of the separatist movement in Ukraine. Anti-western sentiment among Russian civilians since the 90’s has grown to over 80%, according to the Washington post, and NATO is viewed as a very provocative and threatening belligerent. Russia’s repositioning of ballistic missiles at its western border, and recent activity in Syria supporting the Assad regime has further challenged the United States and NATO.
Both China and Russia over the last decade have been increasing military, economic, and political dependence on one another, strengthening their collective power. They have become more of a world influence than ever before, and this may mean a new rivalry between eastern and western powers. Looking at the evidence presented and patterns in history, I think this could lead to an escalation of distrust and hostility if rules continue to be broken, and compromise isn’t reached. Who knows what that might spell for the years to come.