While it is not unusual to see various US administrations rationalising their defence strategies on the basis of their competition with their global competitors i.e., Russia and China, the recent emphasis on labelling the competitor countries as ‘revisionist’ and ‘reactionary’ is particularly telling, especially when taken against the backdrop of an increasing Russian and Chinese assertiveness in the global political arena. At the same time, this labelling or potential demonization in terms of ‘revisionism’ shows that the US is deeply concerned by the emphasis these states are putting on reversing the current world order and replacing it with a multi-polar world, thus effectively putting an end to unilateral world order that the US was successful in establishing after the end of the Cold War.
How the trend towards this potential demonization remains an on-going one and how it is deeply linked with the serious challenge that Russia and China are posing to the US is evident from a recently published Pentagon document on the US’ Indo-Pacific strategy. It characterises China as “revisionist power” and paints Russia as a “revitalised Malign actor.” While the language of the report is far from diplomatic (although it is not a diplomatic statement), it does show the extremely negative lenses the US officials continue to wear to look at how the Russians and the Chinese are operating in the world. China, the report thus describes, “under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), undermines the international system from within by exploiting its benefits while simultaneously eroding the values and principles of the rules-based order.”
The US secretary of defence in his opening message in the report goes even further and states that China “seeks to reorder the [Indo-Pacific] region to its advantage by leveraging military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics to coerce other nations.”
Russia, on the other hand, is seen in the report as a power trying to re-establish its influence in the Indo-Pacific region. “Russia is re-establishing its military presence in the Indo-Pacific by regularly flying bomber and reconnaissance missions in the Sea of Japan and conducting operations as far east as Alaska and the west coast of the continental United States. Russia has also intensified its diplomatic outreach in Southeast Asia, seeking to capitalize on US-China tensions in order to present itself as a neutral “third partner.””
The report confirms that both Russia and China are somehow collaborating to undo the US led world system.