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  • Aug 23, 2014
  • Updated: 12:37am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 June, 2013, 4:22am

The world has lost its fear of the US

BIO

Alex Lo is a senior writer at the South China Morning Post. He writes editorials and the daily “My Take” column on page 2. He also edits the weekly science and technology page in Sunday Morning Post.
 

Is it better for a statesman to be loved or feared? This is one of many questions that Machiavelli posted and answered in The Prince. He concluded it was best to be both, but if you must pick one, always work to inspire fear.

But of course leaders often have no choice in the matter. Barack Obama has proved to be one of those leaders.

Like dogs that bark a lot but have no bite, the angrier Washington's rhetoric directed at Hong Kong, the mainland and Russia over Edward Snowden, the more impotent the Americans have shown themselves to be.

So White House spokesman Jay Carney has waxed indignant.

"This was a deliberate choice by the [Hong Kong] government to release a fugitive, despite a valid arrest warrant," Carney said. "And that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the US-China relationship."

US Secretary of State John Kerry has threatened that Russia would have to deal with the consequences of not helping to detain Snowden. "There would be without any question some effect and impact on the relationship and consequences," he said.

Such harsh words from Washington might have made many countries tremble not too long ago. Not any more.

Obama is still popular abroad. Just witness the enthusiastic response he drew from the crowd at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin last week. Alas, he is not and never was feared.

So much for his statement as a presidential candidate in 2008 that he would gain respect for America and restore its standing!

The US remains the world's only superpower. Even if China catches up economically, it will still take decades for its military to match that of the US, if ever. But the relative decline of US influence and power is unquestioned. US Republicans' criticism of America's loss of global standing under Obama may be self-serving, but it is not wrong. His refusal to intervene in Syria is further evidence of the ever-shrinking role of the US as the world's policeman.

When even tiny Hong Kong, with its long-standing history of legal enforcement with the US, thumbed its nose at Washington by claiming a technicality for not honouring its extradition request, you know the game is up.

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This article is now closed to comments

hongkiejj@malaysiaboleh
I have to disagree with your assessment. No doubt China has the influence to dictate certain issues but it is only limited. There is only so much China can do without direct provocation from the HK's public.
The citizen of HK will simply refuse to kowtow if the issues are directly in conflict with our interest.
As far as SCMP, yes you are spot on.. on certain issues where I feel the editors should be more vocal and gutsy but to compare SCMP with China Daily or Global is just no comparison. Would you rather read and trust SCMP or the above 2.
America has lost its leg and moral high ground... like myself, I used to admire them but not now. No longer and not anymore and frankly, not interested especially since after 911.
Beside, I think it was a damn smart move of China or HK govt to allow ED to leave. There is no hard feelings really...it is just politics.
the sun also rises
Bravo ! Now even our tiny Hong Kong dares say 'no ! ' to the No.1 superpower in the world for technical errors in her documents sent here to have her most-wanted man arrested or so-called provisionally arrested,waiting for extradition.
scmpbeijing1
Alex, This case shows that Hong Kong Chinese are just lap dogs of Beijing. You have no freedom and can only do what Beijing says. China is a greater threat to Hong Kong's freedom of expression than the U.S., and you know it, but you'll never write about that because you lack the guts to do that. With people like you writing commentaries, the South China Morning Post is looking more and more like the China Daily or The Global Times. No wonder so many people don't read the newspaper anymore.
the sun also rises
maybe the age of the World Cop has finally come to the last chapter.If we consider the world is in the form of a global village in which everyone is equal. To maintain a harmonious relationship,no secret monitoring should be allowed and so do the existence of a cop ! Right ?
huying1068@163.com
Good article. the u.s. has play the world's policeman too long.
johnyuan
After less than quarter of a century, cybertechnology has turned from gluing adoration to incomprehension with fear among the general public. Perhaps it was our total foolishness in trusting there is privacy in cyberworld. Just as basic as human desire to get what is forbidden, people will snoop. Countries do it for security. Corporations do it for profits. All of these motives seem to be unstoppable. I think it is fair to argue all countries spy people within and beyond their border. In fact, the world’s jarring silence on the US government being caught in doing so testifies snooping on others is as common as it is easy on the cyberworld. Hacking is really not difficult I believe. Perhaps in the next quarter of a century or much less, hacking could be a common computer game for anyone interested in. Hacking will not be solely carry out by a few computer nerds. I don’t look forward such a day to arrive. I fear among many issues that I would be burdened by the need to use judgment on all information I receive that it won’t be actually a misinformation – counter espionage? Again, it is not only fear of the US. But fear of every country and everyone.
the sun also rises
you yourself is the lap dog of the American imperialist ! it is for sure.Just look into the mirror to check it carefully. A lap dog of the Big Brother who acts like the Mafia boss !
johnyuan
It is only Hong Kong, China and Russia may have lost their fear of America – only diplomatically at that. The world, including those three, their citizens on the contrary should have gained fear of America. No less, for the Americans of their own government. How long would such fear persist? I doubt not for too long if human persists their use of cyberworld for communication, viewing and reading which all subject to be snooped upon by your government, your employer, your neighbor or anyone who wants to. Snowden’s revelation which formalizes our awareness on US government’s snooping yet we would still trade off privacy for immediacy and convenience offer by modern technology. We will become insensitive and not fear. For most of us everywhere.
hongkiejj@malaysiaboleh
the headlines should be ...The world has lost its RESPECT of the US...
reubenm
Correction: Obama has not "refused" to intervene in Syria. He has tried and been thwarted, for better or for worse.

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