(The titular "T" stands for Truth.)
In 1941, Henry Luce famously defined the 20th Century as the American Century. Seventy years later, few would argue with him. Recently, some have defined the 21st Century as the Chinese Century. Of course, a final, definitive verdict on this second pronouncement can only be passed a century from now, after all the evidence has come in and been thoroughly and thoughtfully examined. What is already clear, however, is the emergence, or perhaps more accurately, the arrival, of China as a 21st Century global power. Consequently, understanding China is vital for anyone who's interested in issues of global significance.
But where to start, and how to proceed? In the past, and indirectly. So I'm reading The Man Who Loved China, Simon Winchester's elegantly written biography of Joseph Needham (CH, FRS, FBA), author of the monumental and multi-volume Science and Civilisation in China. Needham was a remarkable character (to say the least), whose life spanned almost the entire 20th Century (1900-1995). The various distinctions he achieved as a scientist, historian, professor, author, linguist and administrator, were more than sufficient to populate multiple distinguished careers, let alone one. He was, and remains, the preeminent authority in the field of sinology, a position he is unlikely to relinquish any time soon, so formidable and foundational is his scholarship in that domain. Winchester focuses on the sinological aspects of Needham's work and career and thereby casts new light on China's history and its place in the modern world.