Under President Donald Trump, the US is starting to prepare for a great-power war and has set its sights on two countries run by powerful men — Russia and China.
Both Vladimir Putin in Russia and Xi Jinping in China are set to stay in power for years to come. Putin is widely expected to win Russia's upcoming election in March and China recently announced plans to end presidential term limits, which could allow Xi to keep his position for decades.
Evan Osnos, a New Yorker staff writer who lived in China from 2005 to 2013, charted the differences between the two leaders in an article on Xi and China's term limit decision. He noted that the similarities between Putin and Xi are "limited."
"In matters of diplomacy and war, Putin wields mostly the weapons of the weak: hackers in American politics, militias in Ukraine, obstructionism in the United Nations," Osnos wrote.
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Osnos argued that Putin's Russia uses "the arsenal of a declining power," while Xi's China is "ascendant."
"On the current trajectory, Xi's economy and military will pose a far greater challenge to American leadership than Putin's," according to Osnos.
Xi, he said, "is throwing out the written rules, and to the degree that he applies that approach to the international system — including rules on trade, arms, and access to international waters — America faces its most serious challenge since the end of the Cold War."
The US has largely avoided weighing in on China's planned term limit change.
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"That's a decision for China to make about what's best for their country," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Feb. 26, 2018.
However, Osnos is not alone in thinking the US should be worried about China under Xi.
"For the United States, the idea of an absolute dictator running the most powerful peer competitor nation-state-and soon to be the most powerful economy — with a single-minded obsession to 'Make China Great Again' who is going to be around for another 10 to 15 years must give us pause," former State Department official and China expert John Tkacik told the Washington Free Beacon.
"Fasten your seatbelts."