It is always entertaining when news from the outside world intrudes upon a seminar. In Hong Kong yesterday I was talking at an event, organised by the Asia Society, on US-Chinese relations. As we were going in, we got the news that Yukio Hatoyama was to resign as prime minister of Japan.
What's that got to do with the relationship between Washington and Beijing?
Quite a lot, as it happens. In his short period as prime minister, Mr Hatoyama had raised the intriguing prospect that Japan might be distancing itself a little from its very tight “special relationship” with the US.
He has talked of his desire for an east Asian community and a huge delegation of his party members flew to Beijing, late last year, for a grin-and-grip with President Hu Jintao.
He also promised to move the US marines' base on Okinawa. It is his failure to keep this promise that has provoked Mr Hatoyama's downfall.
So does the fall of Mr Hatoyama end Japan's “tilt towards China” – if that was what was going on?
I doubt it's that simple. It is true that Mr Hatoyama has found it impossible to gainsay the combined might of the US and Japanese security establishments – both of which insisted that the current deal on Okinawa could not be unscrambled. It is also the case that the current alarm over North Korea has reminded Japan of the value of the American security guarantee.
But while Mr Hatoyama was sometimes naive in his ideas – and crass in the way he expressed them – he reflected an important strand in Japanese thinking, which will not go away.
The presence of the American military is not universally popular – which is why Mr Hatoyama made his promise in the first place.
Furthermore, there are many Japanese opinion-formers – particularly in the Democratic party but also in the long-ruling opposition LDP – who think that Japan must adapt to the rise of China, by striving harder to build a good relationship with Beijing, even if that comes partly at the expense of traditional ties with Washington.
That school of thought will not disappear with the fall of Yukio Hatoyama.
外面世界的新闻打断一场研讨会，始终是一件有趣的事。昨日我在香港一个以美中关系为主题的研讨会上发言，主办方是美国亚洲协会(Asia Society)。在我们步入会场的时候，我们听到鸠山由纪夫(Yukio Hatoyama)辞去日本首相的新闻。