The return of two once-discredited ideas in contemporary international affairs will make the world a much more dangerous place. One is annexation as a de facto expansion of a country’s borders. Another is the extraterritorial application of national jurisdiction. Russia and Israel are practising the first in Crimea and the West Bank respectively. The United States now practically claims global jurisdiction and is helping to legitimise Israel’s annexation plan. China is following the American example. Article 38 of the new national security law, which covers offences committed by foreigners outside Hong Kong and has alarmed so many people, must be understood in this global context. People rightly worry about the long-arm jurisdiction that covers offences committed outside the city. In principle, a foreigner expressing support for Hong Kong independence could find himself in serious legal trouble if he travels to the city or the mainland, or under Article 36, aboard a vessel or aircraft registered in the Hong Kong SAR. But from the Western practice of extraterritoriality during the “century of humiliation” and following the contemporary practice of the US, Beijing may be said to be returning the favour, if just a small one. China won’t be ‘threatened’ but is braced for US sanctions over security law Today, Washington claims jurisdiction over foreigners and foreign institutions under the flimsiest excuse. Frederic Pierucci, a top executive of Alstom, a French energy and transport group, and others within the company, were prosecuted by the US government for bribes made in Indonesia. Their cases made it possible for US rival General Electric to purchase Alstom for a song, which Pierucci believed was a main motive behind their prosecution. Patrick Ho Chi-ping, our former home affairs secretary, was recently released after serving most of a three-year sentence in the US – for bribing officials in Chad! Washington will be sanctioning Chinese and Hong Kong officials for breaching the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law. Imagine if China sanctions American officials for breaching the US Constitution! Above all, Washington is increasingly abusive of its so-called exorbitant privilege, that is, the US dollar as the dominant reserve currency and its general use in international business transactions. Since such transactions must go through the US financial system, Washington effectively has all major international financial institutions under its thumb. Beijing must be thinking: if the US can do it on such an egregious scale, why can’t we? Unfortunately, the rest of the world will be caught between their rival jurisdictional claims.