Things that went whizzing by that I want to remember... It is elementary geopolitics that if you think you are a rising power, you soft-pedal it. You take every opportunity to defuse conflict and to diminish potential flashpoints. Time is, after all on your side. The most that you do is point out the incompetence and failures of the declining powers, and suggest that those are very likely to continue. Thus you do not have to risk conflict in order to increase your influence. Influence flows to you from others who take note of the rising sun and adapt to it. But China seems to be behaving differently—as though assertions of national strength and power are essential moves in some domestic-policy stabilization task?
"It is elementary geopolitics that if you think you are a rising power, you soft-pedal it. "
Are you sure that statement is true, and that China is a rising, vs risen power?
On a PPP base, China's GDP is now larger than the US GDP and within a few years will be larger on a nominal basis. Paul Kennedy's "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers" suggested that war breaks out when the rising power's GDP is about equal to the established power's GDP. While the past history is no guarantee of the future and that this time it could really be different, we should at least entertain the idea that just maybe the past is relevant here.