Over the past decade the United States has shown much interest in establishing itself as a major power outside of this world through the creation of space force. A space force in the United States will likely not become its own branch such as the army or air force, instead it is likely each branch will have its own section dedicated to cislunar security. There are a few reasons the United States is interested in increasing its influence in space. One of these reasons is for security. As the United States relies on its satellites for many things like communications and intelligence establishing a force that can ensure the protection of these satellites will be important moving forward. This is because the United States is not the only country looking to establish itself outside of our atmosphere.
In the first space race the United States faced off against Russia in an effort to achieve superior space flight capabilities. While most people deem the United States to be the winner of the original space race there is no guarantee they will again come out victorious. Times are not the same as they were, and the circumstances have changed. The United States is no longer fighting against Russia for cislunar superiority but China. China currently upholds that its interest in space is purely scientific and not related to security or superiority. Despite this there have been multiple instances of dishonesty from China in the past and many believe the United States needs to be prepared should Chinese interests prove to be false yet again.
Like the players, the goals of this race are different as well. The United States and China are not competing to simply place a man on the moon. The competition is now to establish a superior presence in space. The United States is supposedly working towards this goal by planning and preparing for spy satellites to send into orbit and a lunar surveillance system. China has chosen to go a different route by publicly announcing plans to work towards a permanent base on the moon. A base on the moon would be particularly beneficial to whomever should establish it first. It would allow that country some control over the moon and the space around it, and it would aid in efforts to secure and control vital satellites.
It should be noted that both the United States and China are likely at least a few decades away from establishing any kind of effective presence in space. Despite this, it is still important for each country to think about how it moves forward. While the situation as it stands now is not as competitive as the space race between the United States and Russian there is still potential for it to become that way. There is a thin line between protection and provocation that each country must toe in its efforts to advance. The United States will have to work to carefully navigate the challenges that come with a Chinese effort to establish cislunar presence.