WASHINGTON - Russia and China can never rival the United States in terms of global influence as long as Washington firmly upholds universal values such as democracy, the rule of law and human rights, departing U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday.
"Rivals like Russia and China cannot match our influence around the world unless we give up what we stand for, and turn ourselves into just another big country that bullies smaller neighbors," Obama said in his farewell address in Chicago.
Obama was apparently referring to Moscow's unilateral annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region and Beijing's construction and militarization of island outposts in the South China Sea subject to territorial disputes with its smaller neighbors such as the Philippines and Vietnam.
Obama urged Americans to lead efforts to expand democracy and human rights protection globally, saying, "Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear. So just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are."
"If the scope of freedom and respect for the rule of law shrinks around the world, the likelihood of war within and between nations increases, and our own freedoms will eventually be threatened," he said.
The two-term Democratic president will be succeeded by Republican businessman Donald Trump on Jan. 20.