I was on the back deck at home enjoying one of those rare warm afternoons in early March, listening to birds visiting and chimes dancing in the breeze.
Soon I began imagining how Chinese government officials might see America today, even concocting a conversation between two officials and what they could be saying about us:
No. 1: "Our spies say most Americans have become lazy and overweight. Many don't even want to work. Fast food, cell phones, social media and TV have become their focus for life. It's good we have our TikTok app firmly in place."
No. 2: "I'm told their once fearsome military has become more interested in drilling proper pronouns, climate change and gender identify into their troops than how best to fight us in combat."
No. 1: "That's very good for us. Our forces grow stronger each day and we have more warships than they, and those impressive hypersonic missiles. Soon, we will establish a magnificent new world order."
No. 2: "Are we continuing to manufacture the majority of the world's computer chips and mining nearly all the natural materials needed to build batteries?"
No. 1: "We still have all the resources we need to remain on top."
No. 2 (smiling): "I can't get over the fact they let us fly our spy balloon over their military bases and through the center of their country. We sure pulled that one off! And did you see how that Russian fighter pilot knocked the propeller off their drone in open waters the other day after dumping its fuel all over it? Unbelievable."
No. 1: "Ha, ha, did we ever pull off that balloon thing! And how about the way they fled Afghanistan, leaving billions in weapons behind for their enemies?"
No. 2: "Things are looking up for us in every way. It also appears we're on track to get as many of our citizens as we'd planned into their country through those wide-open borders."
No. 1: "Their leaders don't seem to care who, or how many. We can't make this stuff up!"
No. 2: "Also, can you believe we still have their 'most favored nation' status even though giving us that cost so many thousands of their own people jobs?"
No. 1: "And just look how much stuff we are still sending to their stores, including a lot of their antibiotics."
No. 2: "Plus we've got them continually stirred up about where the coronavirus originated that killed many and decimated their economy. You know, those bats in the fish market."
No. 1: "They enjoy sniping at each other. They are as divided as we'd ever hoped, at each other's throats over politics, of all things, which is just how we like it. Why, they can't even agree on who is which gender anymore and what basic skills should be taught in their schools while we are increasing our science and math programs at unprecedented levels."
No. 2: "I heard our agricultural acquisition program there is also going great with almost 400,000 acres of their farmland now owned by our people."
No. 1: "Plus they are indebted to us by about a trillion dollars, yet they strangely continue sending us millions a year in aid."
No. 2: "And don't forget how many businesses we've already bought into over there, with interests in General Motors, AMC Theaters, Spotify, Hilton Hotels and the appliance division of General Electric, to name only a few."
No. 1: "Hard to believe we've been able to pretty much have our way with them, isn't it? Like a big bird's nest on the ground. Can you imagine them coming over here and trying to do the same things?"
Both laugh out loud.
No. 2: "We just have to patiently wait and continue doing what we've been doing. They're doing a bang-up job of steadily dismantling themselves."
They both lean forward and shout "Ganbei," raising a toast with a glass of Baijiu to their dictators.
Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly like you want them to treat you.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected].