Dong Bei (Northeast China) is not given to drastic weather changes. It is cold half of the year, and autumn officially comes mid-August. The classic weather description is that we have four seasons during the year, two weeks of autumn, two days of spring, two months of summer, and then, cold.
We had to go into town the other day and I was stuck in a taxi for almost two hours covering a distance of less than three miles from the metro to the university. The downpour flooded one of the underpasses and held traffic at a snail’s pace of "one meter at a time."
My taxi’s alternator finally gave up and I had to push the vehicle in the rain to get it started. Add to that the new taxi policy that keeps charging even when the vehicle is not in motion, and the taximeter registered more than twice the normal fare. With the increase of fares from flag down to waiting time, a necessity since the increase of the cost of gas, we were definitely not the only ones who had to dig deep in the pocket for what would be considered an exorbitant price.
In 2002 and 2003, we attended weeklong sessions at a colleague's place in the foothills Colorado Springs not to far from the devastating fire that recently razed some of the fancy homes in the canyons and hills. Though our colleagues’ house was spared three miles away from the raging fire, the site of the disaster was ironically already a note of concern during those conferences as ecological matter was high on the Institute of Realistic Living symposium’s theme.
Almost the size of the United States, China in the last three months saw devastation by floods and droughts, landslides and typhoons, high and low temperatures mixed with torrential rains and strong winds. Nature has become the bull in the China shop!
Thailand and the rest of Indochina have too much water on its watersheds and rivers, costing the residents of Bangkok's wetlands and riverbanks costly inconveniences. Even stoic philosophy that pervades the region cannot contain nerves getting frayed. Commercial and industrial activities that propelled Third World countries into the current global economy are being destroyed. Investment rapidly dries up or exits in areas where the fast buck cannot be made!
It has become axiomatic to begin any serious conversation these days with a sweeping statement like, "We live in a critical time of transition." That is hardly new. We’ve been saying that for as long as I can remember when getting into a conversation weighing more than the current cost of a muscle-knead in Garapan. Metaphors abound that point to the same thing, as in "the great turning" or, the "end of civilization."
A report in 2011 by the Social Development Task Group of the Sociology Department at Tsinghua University titled Research Report Series on Social Progress warned that "powerful vested interests" in China were "holding reforms hostage" in a "transition trap."
Professor Sun Liping, former doctoral adviser to Xi Jinping, China’s vice president, wrote that reforms were getting lost in the shuffle.
The prodigious output of academé makes this just another report save that, with the pedigree of the illustrious author, the report itself became viral and was subsequently pulled out of Internet circulation. The metaphor of the "transition trap" became a source of controversy as it can be interpreted as being the product of sinister forces, or a natural result of developmental processes getting unmanageable.
Add to that the U.S.’ current China containment policy, and the vociferous climate of combative and discordant discourse during this U.S. presidential year (where China bashing is in vogue), and one can understand how easily the research paper got quickly into policy think-tanks and the circle of endless colloquy that infests board rooms, academic seminars, and conferences in the global landscape.
Growth in today’s metaphor is taken for granted and the speed of change usually determines whether it is considered evolutionary or revolutionary. Human’s intentional participation in the change process is what makes a transition progressive, friendly to management, or a cyclical one, left to its own devices out of control.
Leadership has been a loud cry on Saipan and other parts of the world. In my chart of leadership qualities, I name four roles-that of the poet, the general, the sage, and the saint. Most cries for leadership long for the decisive general who flings headlong into battle. We do not hold each role to be exclusive of the other.
The world does not rotate on its axis; it revolves around human stories. That sentiment is ancient but echoed widely because of its resonance, and the accusatory nature of the "transition trap" pointing to unnamed vested interests (not unlike the OWS 1 percent that controls 99 percent of wealth) is probably why the piece was pulled out of circulation.
Water trickling down the slopes in old Asian technology built the numerous rice terraces of southern China with sticks and manually carried stones. Western technology dammed the torrents and currents. The Three Gorges Dam in the Yangtze buried towns and erased communal memories with bulldozers.
Floods and transition traps are metaphors of contemporary existence.
It makes a difference how we tell the story.