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Overarching question? 全局性问题

中国日报网 2024-04-09 13:54


Reader question:

Please explain “overarching question” in this sentence: Whether China and the United States are adversaries or partners is the fundamental and overarching question we need to answer.

My comments:

Whether China and the United States are friends or foes is the big question, in other words, the question that overshadows all other questions concerning the two countries.

If the two countries view each other as friends and partners, then they treat each other as such. If, on the other hand, they look at each other as foes and enemies, then they treat each other accordingly.

People treat friends and foes in opposite ways, of course. We wine and dine our friends, but, as a song sings, we have our hunting rifles ready when we spot an archenemy approaching.

So, whether China and America view each other as friends or foes means a world of difference. How they treat each other, this way or that way, can be worlds apart.

And that is the overarching question that hangs over all other questions.

Picture a rainbow, which is arch-shaped, over the sky. Everything underneath the rainbow is covered by that overarching thing. The rainbow, in other words, overshadows everything underneath. It covers everything under it.

Hence, and figuratively, the overarching question overrides all other questions. In other words, it is the dominant question.

In terms of Sino-US relations, if we are able to find an answer to this dominant question, finding an answer to all other questions pertaining to this relationship becomes easy.

Once the big question is answered, smaller ones won’t be any trouble at all.

All right?

All right, here are media examples of “overarching” as a modifier:

1. Elon Musk doesn’t want AI to replace humanity, rather he argues that AI requires humanity to actually be interesting and useful.

In a meandering 90-minute Twitter Spaces audio conference today attended by over 30,000 listeners, the world’s richest man and leader of Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter outlined his goal for his newest venture, xAI. Musk quietly started xAI in April in a bid to formally enter the AI market. With xAI, Musk has assembled an impressive array of experts (most of whom were on the Twitter Spaces conference), with the audacious goal of “understanding the true nature of the universe.”

Understanding the universe, as it turns out, has to do with a lot of AI.

The overarching goal of xAI is to build a good AGI [artificial general intelligence] with the overarching purpose of just trying to understand the universe,” Musk said.

The concept of AGI is one that some find frightening as a potential challenge to the superiority of the human species on this planet, or any other.

Musk spent a good deal of time explaining his view of what it takes to build what he referred to as a “super-intelligence” that is safe. It’s an approach that relies on humanity’s survival, not its extinction.

“I think to a super-intelligence, humanity is much more interesting than not [having] humanity,” Musk said. “When you look at the various planets in our solar system, the moons and asteroids, and really probably all of them combined are not as interesting as humanity.”

Musk emphasized that he has spent many years thinking and worrying about AI safety and claims that he has been one of the strongest voices calling for AI regulation and oversight. He also stated that in his view safety can be assured with a process for AI, and the humans who regulate it, to be maximally curious and truth-seeking.

- Elon Musk reveals xAI efforts, predicts full AGI by 2029, VentureBeat.com, July 14, 2023.

2. After Donald Trump incited a riot at the Capitol in 2021, Peter Meijer described him as “unfit for office.” And when Meijer cast one of just ten Republican votes to impeach the former president in the House of Representatives that year, he warned that more political violence could follow – thanks to the spinelessness of some in his own party. “Instead of telling the people of America and their supporters what they need to hear, we have had too many politicians telling them what they want to hear,” the then-Michigan congressman said at the time. “That type of reactive leadership is not going to make the Republican Party ever be a party that is trusted to govern in this country again, and we need to fix it.”

Two years and some change later, Meijer is doing a 180; in interviews since entering the race for an open Senate seat in Michigan, he’s spoken favorably of Trump, suggesting earlier this month that the former president is more honest than his successor. And, in an interview with Politico Monday, the ex-lawmaker acknowledged that he would vote for the man he once voted to impeach if the Republican front-runner becomes the GOP nominee, as he appears increasingly likely to do.

My overarching goal is to make Joe Biden a one-term president,” Meijer told Politico’s Adam Wren. “I think that economic damage that he has wrought and will continue to bring will have far more wide-reaching negative consequences on the country than a second non-consecutive Trump administration.”

It’s a wild calculation, given the naked authoritarianism Trump would seek to usher in should he return to office. It speaks to the extremism at the heart of the contemporary GOP: Is this really what passes for reasonable in today’s Republican Party?

Of course, Meijer may have other considerations in mind beyond principles. For one, there’s the political dynamics of a GOP primary, in which there may not be as much appetite for his more moderate voting record, and allegiance to Trump remains the price of admission. For another, there’s spite: Meijer succumbed to a right-wing primary challenge last year that was boosted by the Democrats as part of a controversial strategy to draw easier opponents. It worked. Democrat Hillary Scholten defeated far-right Republican John Gibbs to flip the seat. Meijer was furious – and remains so. “Right now, I’m just very much in ‘a pox on all houses’ mentality,’” he told Politico, expressing “frustration at the cynical calculation that I’ve seen on the Democratic side.”

- Republican Who Voted to Impeach Trump Says He Would Still Vote for Trump, VanityFair.com, November 21, 2023.

3. The US Department of Justice is seeking the death sentence against Buffalo supermarket shooter Payton Gendron, ABC News reported on Friday after seeing the court filing.

The “United States believes the circumstances in Counts 11-20 of the Indictment are such that, in the event of a conviction, a sentence of death is justified,” the documents read.

The 19-year-old white supremacist pleaded guilty to 15 charges, including domestic terrorism motivated by hate, murder, and attempted murder after conducting a racially-motivated shooting at a supermarket chain in May of 2022. He is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

The attack took the lives of 10 people.

Gendron wrote a 180 page manifesto, detailing his personal ideology and why he carried out the attack, the Jerusalem Post reported in 2022.

“Call me an ethno-nationalist eco-fascist national socialist if you want, I wouldn’t disagree with you,” wrote the mass shooter. He describes his overarching objective using the 14 words of white supremacy, which is a slogan of white supremacy.

While Gendron’s attack targeted Black people, he explained in the manifesto that he believed Jews are the real issue troubling the United States.

“I’m advocating for is the Gentiles vs the Jews,” wrote the shooter. “We outnumber them 100x, and they are not strong by themselves. But by their Jewish ways, they turn us against each other. When you realize this, you will know that the Jews are the biggest problem the Western world has ever had. They must be called out and killed, if they are lucky they will be exiled. We cannot show any sympathy towards them again.”

- Buffalo shooter who wished ‘Jews to hell’ may receive death sentence, JPost.com, January 13, 2024.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣  编辑:丹妮)


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