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But in fact Spencer comes out of this story better than some of his companions. He was totally indifferent to production figures, but he was well read in Chinese art, philosophy and religion. At that meeting with Zhou, he was the only guest who dared break the silence when the prime minister asked for comments, impressing Zhou with a strangely moving speech about how the world should be more like Cookham, where everyone loved everyone else. The journey prompted him to some beautiful sketches of children and two haunting paintings of the statues at the Ming Tombs.

There are many close-up profiles in Passport to Peking. The book contains many photographs of the journey by Mathews, and some spare, elegant sketches by Hogarth. Both men were deeply stirred by what they saw in China. In vain, they tried to interest the culture bureaucracy in the equally socialist work — as they saw it — of Picasso or Renato Guttuso.

Hogarth, one of the most successful illustrators of his time, remained a Party member until about , but gave up the struggle against the suffocation of Chinese art long before the non-Party Mathews, who struggled on with the export of new work to China until it became impossible.

It is better to paint the Long March. It is best to paint Chairman Mao. But if I paint a sick shrimp I am politically unreliable. If I paint two sick shrimps I am an aggressive imperialist reactionary. The Cultural Revolution was still a few years off, but its first tendrils were choking off what remained of sane discussion. Is what we do not see or even what nobody can see more significant? If one source of self-deception was intoxication at having stepped through the looking-glass, a stronger one was injured patriotism.

However left-wing those Beijing delegations were, they still confidently assumed that Britain retained worldwide, top-table authority, both moral and military, which could be used to make that world a better place. The same assumptions, although Suez had cut down that imagined authority to its moral element alone, would launch the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in The British left, in other words, did not resent America simply as a capitalist giant.

The trade embargo on China was a case in point. Another was the constant American pressure on British governments to extradite or expel suspected Communists or subversives who had sought refuge in the United Kingdom. Passport to Peking Wright uses the old spellings for period effect is a long book bulging with anecdotes and digressions — most of them interesting, some more entertaining than relevant. Ventriloquism practised on intelligent characters can unnerve the reader. In China in , those English visitors were duped. Not completely; all but a boneheaded handful were aware that much was being hidden from them.

Most of them seem to have felt that the only excuse for accepting such outrageously lavish hospitality could be that they tried to see the truth that lay behind it.

Passport to Peking: A Very British Mission to Mao's China | Oxford University Press

And they grasped hungrily at the tenuous evidence for that belief. Passport to Peking reveals the tenacity of English left-wing optimism, scarred only slightly by the experiences of world war and Cold War. It also resurrects a confidence, now lost for ever, that the seeds of English decency and fairness could be found anywhere if you looked hard enough. Whatever Englishness was, it was universal and good. A card-carrying member of the Communist Party, I went to China to work for the Chinese government as a sub-editor in February A year later, I chose not to renew my membership, and was incarcerated in a small hotel room with my wife and son for two years from to , the early years of the Cultural Revolution.

Mao Zedong and the Chinese Revolution

When I arrived in Peking 16 years after the Communists took over, it was clear there had been enormous infrastructural achievements. With its own money, passport and immigration channels, and legal system, Hong Kong isn't quite a part of China.

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But with Chinese flags flying from government buildings and Beijing appointing the Chief Executive who runs the city, it isn't quite independent either. Officially, the answer to this question is China. However, unofficially Hong Kong is by most practical measures its own country.

While most Hong Kongers consider themselves Chinese, they do not consider themselves a part of China. They even have their own Olympic team, anthem, and flag.


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Hong Kong was never an independent country. In many regards, it was a benign dictatorship. But, for all intents and purposes, it is allowed to operate as an independent country. Below are just some of the ways Hong Kong behaves like an independent country. Hong Kong exercises a limited form of self-government.

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Its parliament is partially elected by popular vote and partially by Beijing approved caucuses of prominent nominees from business and policy bodies. The Chief Executive is appointed by Beijing.

China’s Place in Four Recognition Regimes

In the days that followed, they endured further attacks from Red Guard mobs. In practice, many were effectively held hostage until well into , eyewitnesses as fighting and near civil war between rival Red Guard student factions engulfed Beijing that summer. Other foreign diplomats who fell out of Chinese favor were hardly luckier. Thanks to the ongoing Sino-Soviet split, the ideologically suspect Soviet and East European embassies also became targets for chanting mobs, who played drums and loud revolutionary music twenty-four hours a day, making sleep or rest near impossible for their inhabitants.

Not until late did Chairman Mao Zedong and the Chinese government finally regain control of the forces the chairman had conjured up and relegate the overenthusiastic and unruly students to labor in the countryside. A year can be a very long time in politics, however.

In March , serious clashes began at Zhenbao Island on the Sino-Soviet border, when Chinese forces ambushed their Soviet counterparts. The Soviets responded in kind. Further clashes erupted later in the year, and Soviet officials rather ostentatiously enquired of their American counterparts whether the United States would object, should the Soviets use nuclear weapons against China. At this point, China was virtually isolated internationally, with almost all its ambassadors withdrawn from their host countries for socialist re-education.

Even relations with many once friendly countries had deteriorated dramatically, in response to hostile Cultural Revolution-inspired demonstrations on foreign soil by Chinese diplomatic personnel. From Mao and Zhou downward, from around top Chinese officials began trying to mend fences with existing partners, while making overtures to Western and other powers that—more often than not in deference to the United States—had to date refused to recognize China. The story of how China sought to improve and upgrade relations with Great Britain was one that went in tandem with, and was indeed intimately interwoven with, the reopening of Sino-American relations.


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  • Admittedly, collaboration only went so far. For Britain and the United States alike, at this juncture the question of the status of Taiwan loomed extremely large in their dealings with mainland China. They did know, however, that for China, this was a particularly sensitive subject in the relationship with Britain.