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Chinese Communists

Mao Zedong, Leader of Communist China

I read option one, Edgar Snow on Red China, this week.

This week’s readings dealt with America’s initial divided beliefs regarding Mao Zedong. Some believed that he was good for China. Specifically, some talked about how Mao was “modernizing” China by erecting skyscrapers, department stores, and teaching children English and music. Also, no traditional Chinese clothing is depicted, so all of the Chinese people are wearing western clothing. (All of this shows ethnocentrism because the Chinese had previously got along perfectly well without these things. So long as they had a modern army and enough goods to trade with westerners, the Chinese, as a whole, were just fine the way they were. Westerners just loved seeing these things perpetuated in China because westerners originated and used these things. I mean, after all, what greater flattery is there than imitation?)

This week’s readings also mentioned how, since Mao had read Western works, like The Communist Manifesto, and those by Greek authors, he was well-educated. This was something that was not well known by most Westerners because little news made it through the Iron Curtain or, thanks to the Kuomintang, was allowed out of Red China. (Although it is worth mentioning that these writings take place in the 1920s-1930s, prior to China’s Communist Revolution in 1946.) So, these writings would have been fallen on uninterested American ears. (These ears were too busy dealing with the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl and worrying about Hitler and Mussolini’s rise to power to worry about what was happening in a non-white nation so far away.) Remember, most Americans still didn’t want the Chinese in America (the Chinese Exclusion Act), so why would they care what happened in mainland China, so long as we could continue trading with them? Remember, although the western powers threw their weight behind the anti-Soviet white army, the Cold War wouldn’t start until after World War Two.

Although this is from a different period in history, another section of one of this week’s readings finally cleared up (for me) when the racist idea of “yellow skin” finally got started. Apparently it started in the 18th century when missionaries (this time, not Jesuit), returned from China with disparaging news of the Chinese. As a matter of fact, these new missionaries’ views of the Chinese were so disparaging that they quickly left China in order to train Chinese in European missions. Thus, more missionaries were created. I’d like to know- did the idea of “slanted eyes” come with the “yellow skin” idea, or did it develop separately?

Image courtesy of: Google Images

Information courtesy of:

Spence, Jonathan D. To Change China: Western Advisers in China, 1620-1960

Bethune, Norman, and Larry Hannant. The Politics of Passion: Norman Bethune’s Writing and Art. Cel – Canadian Publishers Collection

“China’s Dictator Kidnapped”. Narrated by Westbrook Van Voorhis, In March of Time, Volume 3, Episode 5 (New York, NY: HBO, 1936), 10 minutes.