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Aug 28

john f. Uggen

More from CNN: Don’t underestimate risks of government spying Vital American national interests may require the United States to go its own way at times and ignore global opinion more frequently. The United States must do what is necessary to protect its most important interests. But creating the impression that U.S. leaders have a casual disregard for international rules and norms undermines American leadership, which is ultimately founded upon our ability to solve common problems-not our skill in looking after ourselves. This is a central reason that governments like those in China or Russia can often challenge U.S. leadership but are unlikely to supplant it.With this in mind, strengthening America’s moral authority should be an important goal of U.S. foreign policy, and it must be attempted honestly and seriously if it is to succeed. Moral authority is not a product of pious pronouncements or noble intent. Nor is it earned through moral-sounding policies that fail to deliver moral results.

On the contrary, we can earn moral authority only by delivering demonstrably moral outcomes, abroad and at home.Two gifted orators, Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, have referred to the power of America’s moral authority in describing the United States as a ”shining city on a hill.” The challenge is to more consistently match word with deed, something that requires being more deliberate about what we do as well as what we say.Restoring the power of the American example will be no easy task – balancing immediate national security concerns, like transnational terrorism and cyber threats, with America’s overarching reputation and values, is simply hard to do. But it might prove easier if American leaders remember that these values are fundamental to American power.

I was pained recently to read the tragic story of China’s Feng Jianmei. She was seven months pregnant. But she already had one child. So, local officials forced her to abort. The story could have ended there – another loss, another sad story. But Feng’s relatives posted graphic images of her fetus on the internet. The pictures went viral, forcing government officials to apologize.The story led to a government-affiliated think tank calling for change. Writing in the China Economic Times, it suggested Beijing should switch to a two-child policy.Even a few years ago, it would have taken a very brave Chinese thinker to pose that question in public. Now, there is public discussion about China’s one-child policy. Could it actually change?When the one-child rule was first introduced in 1979, China’s leaders were reacting to an unprecedented population boom – from 540 million to 960 million people in just under 30 years. And this was happening while China was one of the poorest countries in the world, with little prospect of economic growth. With certain exceptions, the policy was meant to restrict married, urban couples to having only one child. Officials sometimes resorted to extreme measures to implement the rules.