The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dreams of world domination.

I asked a Chinese English language student what he most wanted, the other day. His answer was discomfiting to stay the least.

"I would like the power to give China many advanced weapons. Then China would grow more powerful and all the world would respect China. Then everyone would have to learn to speak Chinese. That would make me very happy."

I almost shuddered at his words. If this is the dearest wish and profoundest dream of a random Chinese student, I wonder if the world is really safe from an ascendant China. Dreams like his don't come from nowhere - they are born in a social milieu which fosters such thinking. Perhaps America is right to be worried about the rise of China.

Recently, America issued its annual report on China's militarization. China reacted angrily saying that it portrays China in a false light and that China's weapons are for defensive purposes only. It also stated that it "interfered in our internal affairs". This is a reference to Taiwan which China believes is an internal matter but which Taiwan and the rest of the world believe to be an external matter.

Most telling, perhaps, about the student's dream is that the dream of power was not for him, personally, but for his nation. He wanted China to be ascendant, but not himself. This is a very Chinese answer, I think, in which the individual is subsumed into the mass of the people of the republic.

I didn't share my thoughts on his comment with the young man concerned: I just observed his ardent expression of the desire for military power for his motherland and wondered whether the world is sleeping, as a new Dragon awakes.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:53 AM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only time will tell if nationalistic sentiments triumph over the more rationale people.

As of now, people are still taking China's claim of a peaceful rise with a pinch of salt- read today's ST article on China.

2:31 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I think that, considering Chinese people are conditioned to be nationalistic that those guided by reason are likely to be over-run. The world is right to be suspicious of China, given the existence of sentiments like the ones written of above.

Should the day come when China's military might matches or exceeds that of the West and should it be as nationalistic as it is now, we could be in for dangerous times.

Thanks for your comment.

9:22 PM  
Anonymous Wang said...


If you are aware of the cultural milieu, you would also comprehend the geo-political boundaries which will constantly constrain China.
So no matter how ascendant it may become, it will always be constrained by its neighbours.

So I would take with a pinch of salt, your sentiment. I would be pragmatic and prefer the American model of governance as the least worse model.

Although for the Chinese milieu, it is only now after 2 centuries of both cultural and national degradation caused no doubt by itself of not adhering to the basic Confucius/Taoist/Judaeo Christian golden rule of learning unlike the Jews, that such sentiments arise.

Just as I would guess such sentiments would arise at the begining stage of Irish diaspora at its rise within the beginning of the 21st century, especially at remembrance of the tragedy of the Great famine worsened by incompetent Sassenach administration at the time.


2:00 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Wang, I think it is dangerous to assume that China is not dangerous. To ignore the possibilities of the situation is to invite the worst possible outcomes. Should China ever be strong enough to take on the rest of the world, one day, it might actually decide to do so. It has the numbers. It has the sheer mass. One day, it may have the military might to match. Then the "constraints of its neighbours" may not amount to much. It all depends on whether China's growing military power is truly "defensive" or whether it is meant for a different kind of long term plan.

After all we should try to remember that the "constraints of its neighbours" didn't stop Japan in WWII from doing a fair bit of land acquisition...nor of Germany in the same period. Both were well "constrained by their neighbours".

History tells us what happens to nations that get too relaxed about their security. They end up annexed by their "powerful but harmless, honest" neighbours.

Thanks for your comment.

7:12 PM  
Anonymous Wang said...


Interesting to note the reply tenor.

China is constrained because all its neighbours are protected either by geography or closed sea lanes. Why do you think that Taiwan is still considered a critical factor. Further all its neighbouring neighbours wishes to ensure its own development except for Myanmar unlike the earlier period which Japan was unconstrained except by colonial powers who had a blind spot and further its largest neighbour China was being carved into pieces and its far neighbour India was under colonial rule.

If the west were to have the same concerns which is your perspective, the tragedy would be that you are creating another BE- German conflict.

Further, China faces its major internal constraints and geography unlike Continental USA.


10:01 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Wang, thanks for your comment.

There is no particular tenor to my reply - at least, none was intended. I think internet communication is difficult because there is no voice or gesture to accompany it - so being misunderstood is very easy.

The fact that China wants Taiwan is proof that it is expansionist in outlook. Taiwanese people do not consider themselves part of China (at least the ones I have met don't). China calling Taiwan 'theirs' doesn't make it theirs...however much they would like it to be. The only reason China has not taken Taiwan is because they worry about America's response. If America wasn't part of the deal, I think China would have taken Taiwan long ago (with a lot of death and destruction along the way).

To be concerned about danger, does not create the danger. The Western powers APPEASED the rise of Germany in the pre-WWII era. It was this very appeasement that encouraged Germany to think it could do what it tried to do. Had the Western powers been rather more alert and less accepting of the situation it is possible that WWII may never have happened. The same goes for China: being aware of its growing strength and often expressed territorial ambitions (over Taiwan, at least), does not create the danger, it merely allows one to be prepared and perhaps to dissuade China of its possible course of action by making it aware that its actions would be resisted.

It is safer to see a danger, than to close one's eyes to it.

I think my view is closer to the West's view than is yours. Your view is rather like what China would like the world to think about that the world can be asleep while it awakens.

No-one wants a war - and there is no need for a war. All sides should know that a war would not be in their interests...then one can be avoided.

I, personally, hope that there is never another large scale human conflict in history. However, it is naive to ignore the possibilities that certain countries and certain nationalistic mindsets present.

China is not a is dangerous to consider it one.

Thanks for your views.

5:27 PM  

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