June 22, 2004


My friend Vinoth has sent me a very good article that speaks about the reputation of USA, and what is its present stand in the minds of people around the world... Read it yourself ~

Destination US: Only visa power


If anti-Americanism is on the rise around the world, no one told the
kids in the student visa line at the US Embassy in Beijing. The quest
among Chinese students for visas to study in America, say US Embassy
officials, has become so intense that it has spawned Internet chat
rooms, where Chinese students swap stories about which arguments work
best with which US consular officials.

Just how closely Chinese students strategise over the Internet on how
to get visas to America - at a time when fewer are being given for
security reasons - was revealed to the embassy recently when on one
day one consular officer had scores of students come through with the
same line, which some chat room had suggested would work: ''I want to
go to America to become a famous professor.'' After hearing this all
day, he was surprised to get one student who came before him and
pronounced, ''My mom has an artificial limb and I want to build a
better artificial leg for my mom and that is why I want to study in
the US.'' The consular officer was so relieved to hear a new line that
he told the young man: ''You know, this is the best story I've heard
this morning. I really salute you. I'm going to give you a visa.''

You guessed it. The next day every other student who showed up at the
embassy said he or she wanted to go to America to learn how to build
''a better artificial limb for my mother''.

Hearing stories like this, you have to wonder: Are Bush officials
right when they dismiss all of this talk that President Bush has made
America more unpopular in the world now than at any other time in
post-war history? Do people really hate us? Don't those visa lines say

To begin with, there are a few ''technical'' reasons why
anti-Americanism generally does not have the same edge in Asia as in
Europe and the Middle East. Asia's leaders have much more legitimacy
than leaders in the Arab world, either because they have come to power
through free elections or because they have delivered on their promise
of economic growth. Because of that, they don't need to demonise
America to deflect their people's anger from them. Also, Asia
generally is focused like a laser on economic development - and
countries like China see investment and technology transfer from
America as critical to their growth.

''People in Asia do not hate the US,'' Singapore's elder statesman,
Lee Kuan Yew, said. ''Countries like China and India are focused on
their economic development, they see in America an enormous well to
draw technology and economic growth from.''

But here's the problem: Young people want American education and
technology more than ever, but fewer want to wear our T-shirts - want
to be identified as ''pro-American''. As one former US diplomat in
Beijing put it: ''They want to cherry-pick us, not line up with us.
We've lost prestige.''

The idea of America as the embodiment of the promise of freedom and
democracy - not just of technology and high living standards - is
integral to how we think of ourselves, but it is no longer how a lot
of others think of us. They are now compartmentalising. The unilateral
war in Iraq, the post-war mess there, the walk-away from Kyoto and
other treaties, the Abu Ghraib scandal have taken a toll. The idea of
US as embodying the charisma of democracy has been damaged. As
political theorist Yaron Ezrahi put it, ''America as the do-gooder has
been hurt, but America as the goods-doer is still there.''

Fortunately, this situation is not irreparable. The longing for an
America that exports hope, not fear, and that is an example of the
best global practices and values, runs really deep in the world. In
fact, it is one reason that some people abroad are so angry with
President Bush - because they blame him for taking that America away
from them. I'm convinced a different approach or different
administration would elicit a big response from the world. But for
now, we will pay a price, because when people want to line up for our
visas but not for our policies, it means Americans alone will have to
bear the burden and the price of those policies. That is not good for
us. When you lose your status as a power with values, you weaken your
ability to fight those powers without values.