Can China’s Political  System Sustain Its Peaceful Rise?


Saturday, March 19, 2011

1:30 p.m.

Room 111-A Chancellor’s Complex, UCSD Campus


After almost two decades of effective diplomacy designed to establish a reputation as a responsible power, Chinese foreign policy has become more assertive toward the United States and its neighbors over the last two years.  What is going on inside China that might explain this change?  And what does it auger for the future?

Susan Shirk is director of the University of California system-wide Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation and Ho Miu Lam Professor of China and Pacific Affairs in the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, University of California, San Diego.   

Dr. Shirk first travelled to China in 1971 and has been doing research there ever since.  During 1997-2000, Dr. Shirk served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs, with responsibility for the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mongolia.

She founded in 1993 and continues to lead the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue (NEACD), an unofficial “track-two” forum for discussions of security issues among defense and foreign ministry officials and academics from the United States, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea, and North Korea.  

Dr. Shirk’s publications include her books, China: Fragile Superpower; How China Opened Its Door: The Political Success of the PRC’s Foreign Trade and Investment Reforms; The Political Logic of Economic Reform in China; and Competitive Comrades: Career Incentives and Student Strategies in China.   Her edited book, Changing Media, Changing China, was published by Oxford University Press in January 2011.



From the President

At the February SDIS general meeting we listened to brief descriptions of SDIS study groups, as is our custom. Most of the groups use a “read-before-the-meeting; discuss-at-the-meeting” process. Harry Boyle was the exemplar of briefness. In describing the Literary Group, he said “We read.” I really liked that, its to-the-point clarity and brevity. This brought me to the realization that there is a “we read” component for all but two study groups. One is the film group in which participants optionally can watch a film separately or together, followed by discussion. The other, the Colloquy Café, is … well, different, or so it seems.

To illustrate this difference by example, a while ago the Café group, in following its usual practice of discussing a single word or phrase per session, chose the word “creativity.” Literally interpreted, the “read-then-discuss” model suggests an extended period of Buddhist-like repetition of the word “creativity” as a mantra. Another alternative would be to focus on the word “creativity” as a word, examining dictionary definitions and etymology in detail. The Café follows neither of these approaches. Instead, the word “creativity” is treated as the symbolic representation of a concept or concepts brought to mind by the word.

Is the concept singular, shared by all, or does the word evoke different concepts for different participants? After examining forty-nine word (or phrase) concepts during more than four years of monthly Café meetings, the conclusion is inescapable that participants have points of view which only partially overlap. As each participant states his or her personal take on a word concept — analytically or personally — the word concept itself takes on added dimensions of meaning. Also, since the Café process is explicit in affirming that consensus is not a goal, each of these diverse facets of meaning is treated with respect — whether one agrees or disagrees. Often, the logical or emotional power of differing points of view destroys belief that either the word or the concept underlying the word has mutually agreed specific meaning.

Thus, as a Café session unfolds, the question shifts from “What is the meaning of creativity?” to “What does this concept called 'creativity' mean to me, as an aspect of my life and how I see the world around me?” The sharing of responses to this question becomes a learning experience and a real-time scholarly enterprise.

Can we state succinctly a Café equivalent of the Literary Group’s “We read” description? The phrase, “We colloquialize” comes to mind.  I was surprised to learn that my dictionary relates this to the concept of colloquial, not colloquy.  I rather like the melding of these two concepts, the bringing together of an informal style of speech (colloquial) within a rather formal and focused meeting process (colloquy).  Nonetheless, setting “colloquialize” aside as too complex, I suggest instead an unusual alternative:  “We ruminate.” Other suggestions?

I hope it is clear by now to all who read this column that I have become a fan of facilitated, focused study group processes — reading, discussing, listening, ruminating, all of it.  Whatever the words, participation can be stimulating and fun for those who enjoy a life of the mind in the company of others.






Figuring prominently in the history of Balboa Park is Kate Sessions (1857-1940), world-recognized horticulturist, botanist and nurserywoman.  Beginning in 1892 and for the next ten years, under contract with the city of San Diego, she planted more than 100 trees a year in what was then called City Park.  In 1907 Sessions was one of the founders of the San Diego Floral Association, which was largely responsible for the profuse plantings in advance of the 1915 Exposition and was the first garden club in Southern California. Since 1923, except for the World War II years, the organization has maintained a horticulture library in Balboa Park.

Located in the offices of the Association, room 105 of the Casa Del Prado, it houses some 3500 books and periodicals. Open Mondays-Fridays from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., its riches are available to the public for perusal on site. (Only Floral Association members may 
borrow from its contents.) No appointment is necessary.


Among the library’s collections are books donated by Kate Sessions; in 1925 she contributed a 56 volume set of bound copies of The Garden, the magazine of England’s Royal Horticultural Society. One of the library’s treasures is a very thick reprint of The Besler Florilegium: Plants of the Four Seasons (1613). Created by the Nuremberg botanist Basilius Besler (1561-1629), it contains 1000 drawings of ornamental flowering plants.  According to volunteer librarian Jean Hughes, an exceedingly rare copy of the original was recently shown on PBS’ “Antiques Roadshow”.

Also on the shelves are 9 volumes of Harold William Rickett’s Wildflowers of the United States (1966-73), 3 of which deal with the nation’s Southwest.  Sponsored by the New York Botanical Garden, it is written in nontechnical language for amateurs, and each species is illustrated with color photographs. The library contains approximately 25 other volumes of gardening photography.

An example of the category Hughes refers to as gardening literature is a copy of Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book (1766-1824), a compilation of his horticultural diary along with many letters, drawings and memoranda.


A large portion of the collection concerns Asian gardening, including bonsai. Information about landscaping and garden planning, about flower arranging, organic gardening, composting, garden pests and diseases is here, as are dictionaries of horticulture. The most frequently consulted books, according to Hughes, are those concerning roses and orchids.

Although the bulk of the library’s holdings are for practicing gardeners, it contains much for the researcher and for the plant fancier as well. Honoring an active Floral Association volunteer, it is properly titled the Mary A. Greer Memorial Library. Its existence is further testimony to the continuing influence of Kate Sessions, often called the Mother of Balboa Park.

Gerry Horwitz




Colloquy Café

The next Colloquy Café, on Wednesday, March 16, at 1:30 PM, will be on the subject Money, at the home of Jean Mayer. Those who are interested in attending can contact Sam Gusman at .

Culture One

The next meeting of the Culture One study group will be held on Thursday, March 10 at 2:30 PM. The group will continue its study of Metaphors We Live By, by Lakoff and Johnson, reviewing and discussing Chapters 1-18. Those who are interested in attending should contact Sam Gusman at  


Culture Two

The next meeting of the Culture Two study group will be held on Wednesday, March 23 at 2:30 PM at the home of Len Brown.  The group will read Chapters 3-5 of The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Those who are interested in attending are requested to read the material before the meeting.  Betty Hiller will moderate.  For more information, contact Betty at


TheFilm Groupwill meet Wednesday, March 2 at the home of Barbara Heckler in University City.  At 12:30 PM we will view the 2010 film Winter’s Bone, a nominee for Best Picture at the 2011 Academy Awards. If you have already viewed the film, discussion will begin at 2:15 PM.  Contact Barbara at for information on where to rent the film or to RSVP.


Because the Literary Group will meet the last day of February, they have not yet set the topic or the date of their next gathering.  Contact Harry Boyle at for more information.

Science (aka Brain)

The next meeting of the Science Group is scheduled for Monday, February 28, at 3 PM at Bea Rose’s apartment.  The new book is This Is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin and the discussion will focus on the first two chapters.  Visitors are welcome but because space is at a premium, please call Bea Rose at 858-455-6815 before planning to attend.

Works in Progress

Last February 12, WIP enjoyed a delightful and productive meeting with Carol Gartner.  She presented an overview/prologue of her biography of Mary Putnam Jacobi, M.D., with particular attention to some struggles of a 19th century professional woman.  Carol will have another section of her work ready to present in early May, exact date and time to be announced in the next Scholar's Notebook.  Is it your turn?  If you are engaged in a scholarly, imaginative or artistic work that you'd like to run by someone, consider WIP.  Contact Donna Boyle to see how it lends itself to Works-in-Progress. Donna's at



Joan and I have never met.   She emailed me after I edited Notebook for the first time, and emailed me again several weeks ago to alert me to an edition of The Reader which had a cover story titled “Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History.” She piqued my interest, and in a phone conversation, I realized that she could write a fascinating autobiography!   So I decided to interview her.

Barbara Heckler

Q. You started out in college as an English/History major.  Why did you get a degreein Biology? 

A. Just before my sophomore year, my dad told me that if I didn’t change my major to something he approved of, he’d stop paying my tuition and I would have to stay home to take care of the family again. (My mother had died, and I was the oldest daughter.) He wanted somebody to be a doctor: “When the Communists take over, they will kill off all the educated people, but they will have to spare the doctors.”  I liked science, so I instantly switched to biology and chemistry. It was worth it just for all the Latin and Greek word roots I learned. My dad died a year later, releasing me from my pre-med obligation, but I couldn’t change horses in midstream again.


Q. Was it difficult to get that first job as a copywriterwhen your degree wasunrelated?

A. Upon graduation from Seton Hill College, I answered an ad for an advertising copywriter in a third-rate department store in Pittsburgh.  They only wanted a high school graduate; and in writing, you either have the knack or you don’t.  Next job was reporter for weekly newspaper, then on-air radio promotion.


Q. You published two books in the 1970s.  What were the titles, and what were they about?

 A. The World Travel Planner: How to Save Time, Money and Energy When Traveling Abroad.  It was co-authored with my late husband, Robert M. Watkins, using my name at the time, Joan C. Watkins.  The Diet Food Finder was a reference guide to finding recipes for therapeutic diets, and was named an “Outstanding Reference Book of the Year“ by the American Library Assn.


Q. What were the topics of the technical articles you co-wrote with your husband?

A. Non-destructive testing, beginning with neutron activation analysis and running samples through gas chromatography, ultraviolet absorption, etc.  It was published in American Jurisprudence: Proof of Facts to help judges and attorneys understand expert witnesses, and was one of two articles cited as “the most succinct and understandable” in a U.S. Court of Appeals test case on the admissibility of neutron activation analysis.                                                          


Q. What was your job at KOGO?  What lesson did you learn?

 A. I wrote press releases and three monthly newsletters.  KFSD (Channel 10) decided to change their call letters, and in an avant-garde move for 1960, they used a huge computer to print out all four-letter combinations beginning with K, choosing KOGO. Of course, I used the exotic computer as the angle in my press release in this otherwise mundane story.  Thrilled when Variety picked it up, my heart sank when I read, “Ask a computer a stupid question and you get a stupid answer.” I learned that in publicity, when you throw someone an easy pitch, you don’t know how they’ll hit it back!  My biggest news release was our acquiring Regis Philbin from KFMB Channel 8.


Q. In the 1970s you also began a life-long commitment to women’s issues.  In what way areyou currently involved with feminist organizations?

A. After being Newsletter Editor, then President, of San Diego County NOW in the 1970s, my efforts today are supporting reproductive rights for women, electing pro-choice women to public office, and two feminist works-in-progress (more below).


Q. You’re currently working on two big book projects.  One is ready for publication;the other isn’t.  What are they about?

A. Eve’s Icons: The Story of a Woman’s Life is a system of simple icons based in the common female and male icons I learned as an unplanned biology major.  Anyone can draw them--everything from menarche, PMS, conception, miscarriage, abortion, pregnancy, childbirth, girl boy, faking an orgasm and many more.  The other book is about the power relationship between the sexes. 


Q. How did you become interested in graphic icons?

A. When working on the power relationship book, I often used the female/male icons as shorthand for woman/man.  I desperately needed one for “child” to save time. Because I can’t draw, it had to be simple, so I derived one from its ancient parents.  Next I made an icon to show that the woman is pregnant, and immediately asked, “Is she happy about being pregnant, or unhappy?  Anatomy books don’t care, but women do.”  


Q. You’re very open about your problems with manic-depression.  What techniques doyouuse to manage it without lithium?

 A. When all the anti-depressants failed a friend sent me to acupuncture, and eventually I found an acupuncturist who cured my depression.  Later, I stumbled across Tomatis Sound Therapy tapes, which claimed to cure dyslexia.  I’m not dyslexic, but lithium made me scramble numbers and letters when I wrote.  The doctor said they were safe to try.  I played the tapes for 235 hours and they broke the mania--I could understand others, make judgments, shut up if somebody told me to slow down.  Later, I tried biofeedback to unscramble my writing--it failed--but it smoothed out all the little ups and downs of minor mood swings so that I am now a happy member of the Flat Earth Society.  (I still scramble.)


Q. When and why did you move to San Diego?  When did you join SDIS?

A. Late 1959 when I married Bob Watkins, nuclear chemist, and he took a job at General Atomic.  My two daughters now live in New York and San Francisco.  I joined SDIS in the mid 1990s.  My first SDIS volunteering was stuffing envelopes - I don’t remember what for.  I’ve taken care of Refreshments for about 12 years, so the board awarded me an Honorary Membership.  But I’m proud to still be a dues-paying member!




The Nominating Committee members are Bill Houghton, Marjorie Jackson, Sue Punjack and Bea Rose. Their assignments this year are to find nominees for three positions on the Board: Executive Vice President, Treasurer, and a third Director-at-Large; and to provide nominees for the 2012 Nominating Committee.

The Committee had its first meeting on February 3, 2011 and made initial plans for their work. This notice is a call for volunteers for any of the above positions. Please contact Bea Rose at (858) 548-9263 or  no later than March 15, 2011. You will receive a very prompt reply.                                                                        Bea Rose


March Meeting


Realism vs. Moralism in Foreign Policy: Hans Morgenthau and the Modern Predicament


The usual UCSD meeting place,

Room 111-A Chancellor's Complex

Saturday, April 16, 2011, 1:30 P.M.



About SDIS

San Diego Independent Scholars (SDIS) supports unaffiliated writers and researchers and welcomes everyone who appreciates creative and intellectual activities in the humanities, science, and the arts.  SDIS is a non-profit organization and an affiliate of the National Coalition of Independent Scholars.

Sam Gusman, President,


Scholar’s Notebook is the newsletter of SDIS. Please send your news for the Notebook to Barbara Heckler, the Notebook editor: or by mail to 3489 Wellesly Ave, San Diego, CA 92122. The deadline for submissions is the 22nd of the month prior to publication date.

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