China has always said that their policy is against the militarization of outer space. It has thus co-sponsored a treaty with Russia against placing arms in outer space (PPWT). The treaty has not progressed past its draft stage partially because the United States and its allies argue that its focus on space-based weapons is crafted to allow for ground-based interceptors and also that it lacks a strong verification mechanism.
Russia, for its part, seems to be reinvigorating its proximity operations and its close approach capabilities, by testing having its satellites get near other countries’ satellites without their permission. This seems to be a continuation of the co-orbital satellites it had during the USSR, during which satellites would approach and blow up near targets, allegedly for research purposes. However, we can all recall Russia’s attempts to intercept the transmissions of the Athena-Fidus Franco-Italian satellite in 2018, which prompted France to speed up investments in its military capabilities. That being said, it should be noted that Russia is not the only country with this capability or even engaging in such activities.
However, in terms of policy and strategy, Russia is not entirely transparent either. It certainly has a legacy from the Cold War, and a massive space program. Let’s not forget that, from 2011 until this summer, with Space X’s successful launch of two NASA astronauts, Russia was the only way humans could get to the International Space Station. The time has come therefore for them to try and figure out a new raison d’être, and the commercial space industry is not it. My deduction is that they’re aiming to veer off towards the military use of space as a primary goal. Either way, there is significant national prestige associated with having a counter space program, which Russia surely wants to hold on to.
China, on the other hand, has a growing commercial space sector, changing from the entirely state-run model it had, up until a few years ago. Though most of its space capabilities and programs are still state-controlled, a large part of its nascent newspace industry is funded by venture capitalists.
As for the US, it has already proven that its missile defense interceptors can shoot down a satellite, with Operation Burnt Frost in 2008, in response to China’s 2007 test. The US also has a program called the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP). Its purpose is to carry out close approach and surveillance operations around other countries’ satellites, at geosynchronous orbits (36,000 kilometers in altitude) - in essence perpetuating what it accuses other countries of doing. That may serve for the US to understand that just because a nation may have the capabilities, it does not necessarily mean that they are malevolent in intent.
That being said, the rhetoric coming out of the US is disconcerting. Though the Space Force was in the works before Trump, Trump did put his stamp, and his narrative, on it. It therefore became part of a rhetoric that was belligerent and competitive, which has made it seem much more offensive than it can be.