It would be nice to think that America’s indifference to Hong Kong begins and ends with its president. Donald Trump, to be sure, is failing badly. By insisting Hong Kong’s protest are “riots”, and that China “is going to want to stop that”,  Trump has given Beijing every reason to think Washington would not object to a crackdown. To ensure no misunderstanding, Wilbur Ross, Trump’s secretary of commerce, said on Wednesday that Hong Kong was an internal matter for China. “What are we going to do – invade Hong Kong?” he asked.

In a few words, Ross captured the degeneration of US foreign policy: it has been reduced to a choice between doing nothing or going to war. The president has obliterated the space for diplomacy. Trump’s solipsism has also reinforced America’s tendency to see everything as an extension of itself. Among Republican hawks this means celebrating the smattering of Stars and Stripes that have been spotted among the Hong Kong protesters. This is unhelpful since Chi...

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