You feel the cold, riding around today. If I rest my hands on my handlebars and bike along unthinking, the tips of my index fingers will get cold. So I cock them back and forth and swing them about, one at a time, so I don’t fall over, looking like the B9 robot from “Lost in Space,” I can keep the circulation moving and the digits stay sentient. I’ve added the warmest gloves I can find to my Christmas list. These ones I got last year just aren’t warm enough.
The puddles on the side of the rail trail are frozen over. Shallow, you can make out the faded blanketing of leaves, lying mournfully beneath the thin sheet of fresh ice. It must have been early last spring when my nephew and I walked along the same path and tested the ice to see where it would hold us. It was a different winter, with different leaves and different ice, but it all seems oddly smeared into one strange continuum with this strange year we are about to complete.
I have finally turned my attention to the pile of “China reading” I have been stacking up on my shelf. During my final year over in Beijing I was doing these one to two hour lectures on China, over and over again, with visiting delegations from Brazil, and I found that I had a routine and I knew what I wanted to say and how I wanted to surprise them, and challenge their assumptions. And quite a bit has happened to U.S. China relations, in the time since then. I don’t think I’d conclude with precisely the same message. But what then, is my updated opinion on the matter? I’ll have to think about it and gorging myself on China reading is one way to foster this.
I wasn’t anticipating that I’d enjoy Graham Allison’s: “Destined for War.” I wanted to read it so that I would see the topic as others who don’t think about China all the time might. And while there were many things he was obliged to cover, setting up China’s rise, explaining the concept of the ‘Thucydides’ Trap’ that were predictable and formulaic in way that reminded me of business books from the Harvard Business School with frameworks that corral the journey for people with short attention spans, there were many parts of the book that were new for me. For example, I always knew of the rise of Germany in the late nineteenth century, but I hadn’t really considered what an enormous, disruptive swell it had been, while it was underway. He does a good job as well of outlining the pugnacious behavior of Theodore Roosevelt, as well, when he turned the Monroe Doctrine from theory to practice, pushing American readers to consider if they really do want China to behave more like “us.” I will continued on then, with an open mind, glad that the declarative statement in the title really ought to have been punctuated with a question mark.