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Future in Review 2008: Sidney Rittenberg Provides Insights Into China

May 21st, 2008 · 1 Comment · Travel

The session was titled “The Next China: Beyond the Olympics” and was hosted by Russ Daggatt of Denny Hill Capital.

The session opened with an introduction by documentary filmmaker Lucy Ostrander who has captured many hours of interviews with Sidney Rittenberg, an American who lived in China for over thirty years — starting in 1944. 

Rittenberg had a close association with top leaders of the Communist party, including Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. While in China, he spent 16 years in solitary confinement as a political prisoner. 

Rittenberg currently consults with companies that do business in China, and provided the audience with riveting insights into the China of the past and present. Here are a few that I jotted down. 

There is a very strong affinity between the American people and the Chinese people. Zhou Enlai said there were 3 reasons for this. We share an irreverent sense of humor and a dislike for bureaucracy. In addition, both peoples prefer straight talk.

Mao’s favorite foreign country was the U.S. It was always in the “center of this interest.” He would frequently go out for dinner with left-wing Americans in the 50s and 60s, but not the French, British, or Japanese. 

In the 1940s, Mao made overtures to the United States for financial support, and to be invited to Washington DC. Both requests were rebuffed. Rittenberg feels sure that “if we had not been so ideologically driven, so narrow — we would not have had to fight the war in Korea or Vietnam.”

Russ Daggatt closed the session by indicating that the documentary filmmakers are looking for an additional $800,000 of capital to finish the project. Based on what I’d seen during the session, I’d certainly like to see the this film completed.



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