This week’s readings focus on the perhaps surprising relationship by which Black Power and Civil Rights activists, like W.E.B. DuBois, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, communicated and commiserated with the newly Communist People’s Republic of China. Although on opposite sides of the world and consisting of different races, both suffered from the socioeconomic effects of Western imperialism. These effects were associated with western capitalism and were part of what led the Chinese Communists to come to power in the first place. (Although it is worthy mentioning that, ironically, the whole idea of Communism originated in the western nation of Germany.) These socioeconomic effects included the imposition of a racial system where whites were at the top and thus had access to greater educational and employment opportunities and Blacks and Chinese had no ability to resist this. In the case of Blacks, they were forcibly taken from their home countries and brought (via slavery) to the New World, while the Chinese stayed in their country of origin, which was invaded by the western powers. This shared commiseration in the face of a common enemy made these two groups into diplomatic friends.
Interestingly, this shared misery at an enemy expanded to include Gandhi, who, although Indian, was fighting against British rule of his nation and ludicrous salt taxes. This was also true of the Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro, who fought against the lack of good jobs for Cubans and the abundance of them for Americans. So, in essence, revolutions, some of them Communist, which shook the world from the 1930s-1960s, were in essence a result of long-simmering antagonism resulting from colonialism and imperialism.
It was only in 1963 that the Communist Chinese began to give up on the idea of peacefully overthrowing these western ideals and began to physically fight them. This would contribute to the nuclear era, with China adding to the nuclear warfare threats made by the US and USSR.
In the years since these seemingly amazing relationships began, the efforts to promote “country x for the citizens born in country x” have both succeeded and failed. In China, western manufacturing owners bring their business to the Chinese. They employ Chinese, but the actual companies are American. In each of these countries, racism towards the darker-skinned is still rampant. This is a legacy of when western Europeans taught the world that white was the best color to be.
Image courtesy of: Google Images
Information courtesy of:
Johnson M.D. “From Peace to the Panthers: PRC Engagement with African-American Transnational Networks, 1949-1979.” Past and Present 218, no. Suppl.8 (2013): 233–57.
“Statement by Mao Tse-Tung, Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, in Support of the Afro-American Struggle Against Violent Repression, April 16, 1968” In Afro Asia: Revolutionary Political and Cultural Connections between African Americans and Asian Americans. Book Collections on Project Muse. Edited by Bill Mullen and Fred Wei-han Ho, 94-96. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008.
Brown, Keisha and Ruodi Duan. “Teaching China through Black History“. Fairbank Center Blog, Jan. 30, 2019.