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Chinese Communist Leaders Were Secret “Fans” of the U.S.

May 22nd, 2008 · 1 Comment · Travel

I wrote yesterday about Sidney Rittenberg, who spoke at the Future in Review conference this week. As a Laurel and Hardy fan, I found his discussion of how the Chinese leaders in the 40’s we’re also avid followers intriguing. This passage is from his book where he describes how Mao and other leaders were privately fans of America. 

On Friday nights we all watched American films together at the US. Army mission. The army shuttle plane brought in the movies for the American soldier’s and staff who were still acting as liaison between Washington and the Chinese Communists. The Communists provided the Americans office and living quarters in the center of Yanan. The Americans, in turn, would share films and other treats with the Chinese from time to time. Before I arrived, the movies had been translated by an army translator. But the first rime I attended the movie a party official pulled me aside and asked me to take over. “We’re missing the American flavor of the films,” he complained. 

It was clear the Chinese enjoyed the films tremendously. Even the most senior leaders-Mao, Zhou, and Zhu De as well as the border region military commanders, Wang Weizhou and Wang Shitai-would come whenever they could. We watched Laurel and Hardy films, and Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald, and they plied me with questions about American life. “Does everyone in America have a car?” they asked after seeing so many of them in the films. 

I was fascinated by their interest and obvious admiration for almost everything American on the screen. I could see they regarded us as free and prosperous, in sharp contrast to the official party statements about America, and also in contrast to their strange lack of interest in the Soviet Union, the society that supposedly they looked up to. They greeted the films with riotous laughter and shouted commentary. “He’s undergoing ideological struggle,” they shouted at the screen when a character couldn’t make up his mind. 

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Steve Roth // Jun 10, 2008 at 6:49 am

    Yeah, as I’ve said for a long time, the single most powerful weapon in the American arsenal is…Disney.

    There’s nothing–including our military–that islamic fundamentalists hate and fear as much as our cultural exports. Because they seduce their children.

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