What China Can Learn from the Fall of the 'American Way'

In a feature entitled “Five Years of President Obama: Squandered Credibility,” the Voice of Russia reminded listeners that when Obama took office five years ago, he promised peace with the Muslim world, signaled a desire to “reset” relations with Moscow and assured human rights activists of his intent to shutter Guantanamo Bay. But the broadcast further suggested that the Libyan and Syrian crises demonstrate that the U.S. military-industrial complex cannot survive without war and that the Middle East has now become a “graveyard for the prestige of Barack Obama.”

“Add to the failure of the Middle East ‘targeted killings’ with drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan, stopping of the ‘reset’ with Moscow and now with the scandal of wiretapping the leaders of the European Union — and the picture of Obama’s foreign policy becomes altogether joyless,” the report claimed. Both Americans and their partners are quietly losing faith in Obama and the nation that he leads; as a consequence, America’s status as a power is waning.

Obama, whom many believed would achieve great things during his second term, at present still appears to be entrenched in the George W. Bush administration’s hard-line policies. He has pressured and denounced Syria, leveled a never-ending slew of sanctions and criticisms at Iran, upheld a policy of isolating North Korea and seized upon the return to Asia strategy as an opportunity to incite neighboring countries against China as a form of containment. However, although the aforementioned policies retain the guise of remaining under the guiding hand of the U.S., in the eyes of the U.S. and its allies, they are simply bywords for the incompetence of Obama and the powerlessness of his nation.

Internally, Obama has run up against countless political challenges and setbacks since taking office. Apart from the economic crisis, his promised health care reforms have not borne fruit, nor has Guantanamo Bay been closed. Yet the greatest fiascoes have been Edward Snowden’s leaks throughout the PRISM affair and the financial crisis forcing a government shutdown.

The PRISM affair in particular has corroded the image of the “world savior” U.S. and its staunchest allies to the point that other countries avoid them like the plague. “The American way” is no longer seen as the golden standard, meaning that its adherents may find the path considerably more difficult to follow; America’s international sphere of influence has also been greatly diminished.

A preponderance of evidence has already shown that regardless of the will of Americans, the United States’ capability to mold the world according to that will has all but vanished. Although its past allies remain respectful of it, they will no longer fall in line as easily; even a fistful of dollars may not be enough to buy the influence it might expect. Time will tell whether or not NATO will continue to follow U.S. leadership. For that to happen, NATO member states must further be willing to look beyond Europe and redefine NATO’s mission.

However, even if the U.S. is in decline, the decay of its power will not necessarily be uninterrupted, nor does it mean that the U.S. cannot change its fortunes entirely, as reasonable adjustments and reforms always present opportunities for some degree of improvement. Therefore, the problem before us is that if the U.S. retains its power, then it must learn to temper its brash nature; if it continues to decline, then the world must plan out a new road map to follow.

In the eyes of many around the world, what the U.S. lacks is not strength, but rather a mechanism to concentrate that strength; not the means, but rather the executive force to implement those means; and certainly not intelligence and wisdom, but rather the channeling of that intelligence and wisdom toward bolstering cooperative efforts rather than the good of one’s own party.

But at present, the U.S. may have already become hopelessly ensnared in the quicksand of internal strife, and thus been drawn into a re-enactment of history. History shows that all things which rise must eventually fall in the end; the U.S. can no more escape that fate than any other. Let us hope that China takes to heart the lessons to be learned from the successes and failures of the U.S. and forges ahead into a bright and promising future!

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