Trouble as tonic?

Check out this “Briefly Noted” review of The Generalissimo by Jay Taylor in this week’s The New Yorker. Here’s the line that got me thinking:

Chiang [Kai-Shek] saw himself as central to China’s destiny, yet his years in exile were some of his happiest; as he once wrote, “Trouble is an excellent tonic.”

What exactly does he mean by trouble being a tonic here? It could mean that the trouble that Chiang experienced at the hands of Mao, that is the losing of mainland China and being exiled to Taipai, was not all bad. Chiang’s time in exile was productive and happy and may end up being more important for the success of modern China than Mao’s cultural revolution. What else might he mean? I wonder if this is a focus of the book or just the reviewer’s take on the book? I often find that The New Yorker book reviews are more interesting than the books that they review. I do like the idea of thinking about trouble as tonic as healing, restorative and invigorating. Cool.

Oh, did I happen to mention that I was obsessed with China and read way too many books about it in high school?

Word Count: 200 words