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Standing Up for Democracy

American Values and Great Power Competition

An American flag in Convent, Louisiana, June 2018. Jonathan Bachman / Reuters

In its 2018 National Defense Strategy, released in January, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump correctly identified great-power competition as the United States’ central security challenge. In recent years, rival states such as China and Russia have increased their ability to project power and undermine the U.S.-led liberal international order, even as Washington has struggled to respond. Beijing and Moscow, moreover, share a vision of a global order more conducive to their own forms of authoritarian governance. As a result, today’s great-power competition is a contest not just of nations but of political systems.

Thus far, the Trump administration has largely focused on great-power rivalry in terms of economic and military might. Its strategy documents have outlined the loss of the United States’ competitive military edge as other states have made major investments in new power projection technologies. Washington has used tariffs and other penalties

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