Passport to Peking: A Very British Mission to Mao's China

Passport to Peking: A Very British Mission to Mao's China

by Patrick Wright

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President Nixon's famous 1972 trip has gone down in history as the first great opening between the West and Communist China. However, eighteen years previously, former prime minister Clement Attlee had also been to China to shake Chairman Mao by the hand. In the second half of 1954, scores of European delegations set off for Beijing, in response to Prime Minister Chou En-lai's invitation to 'come and see' the New China and celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Communist victory. In this delightfully eclectic book, part comedy, part travelogue, and part cultural history, Patrick Wright uncovers the story of the four British delegations that made this journey. These delegations included an amazing range of people from the political, academic, artistic, and cultural worlds of the day: Clement Attlee and his former Health Minister, Nye Bevan; dapper and self-important philosopher A. J. Ayer; the brilliant young artist-reporter Paul Hogarth; poet and novelist Rex Warner (a former Marxist who had just married a Rothschild); and the infuriatingly self-obsessed Stanley Spencer who famously lectured Chou En-lai on the merits of his hometown of Cookham, but who emerges as the unlikely hero of the story. Using a host of previously unpublished letters and diaries, Patrick Wright reconstructs their journey via the USSR to the New China, capturing the impressions - both mistaken and genuinely insightful - of the delegates as they ventured behind both the iron and the bamboo curtains. Full of comic detail of the delegates and their interactions, it is also a study of China as it has loomed in the British mind: the primitive orient of early western philosophy, a land of backwardness that was used to contrast with the progressive dynamism of Victorian Britain, as well as the more recent allure of revolutionary transformation as it appeared in the minds of twentieth century Britons.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780191624735
Publisher: OUP Oxford
Publication date: 10/28/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 8 MB

About the Author

Patrick Wright is a writer and broadcaster with an interest in the cultural dimensions of modern life. He is the author of a number of highly acclaimed best-selling history books, including The Village that Died for England, Tank (described by Simon Schama as 'a tour de force'), and Iron Curtain, which John le Carre described as 'a work of wit, style and waggish erudition.' He has written for many magazines and newspapers, including the London Review of Books, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Independent, and the Observer, and has made numerous documentaries on cultural themes for both BBC Radio 3 and 4. His television work includes The River, a four-part BBC2 series on the Thames. He is also a Professor at the Institute for Cultural Analysis at Nottingham Trent University, and a fellow of the London Consortium.

Table of Contents

List of Plates
List of Figures
Part I. In the Spirit of Geneva (London to Minsk)
1. Embarkation
2. Holding Out in the Legation Quarter
3. Paul Hogarth's Marxist Shudder
4. The Battle of British 'Friendship'
5. The Charms of Anti-Americanism
6. Barbara Castle's Bevanite Sigh
7. Chou En-Lai's Winning Smile
Part II. One Good Elk and Dinner with the Politburo (Moscow)
8. Flowers for Edith Summerskill
9. Just Like Manchester a Hundred Years Ago
10. The Tragic Thoughts of Chairman Smith
11. Stanley Spencer's Pyjama Cord and the Socialist Tree
Part III. Anticipating China (Moscow to Ulan Bator)
12. Ghosts over Siberia (Casson and Pulleyblank)
13. A Blue Jacket for Abraham Lincoln (Paul Hogarth)
14. How China Came to Cookham (Stanley Spencer)
15. The Flight of a Brown Phoenix (Cedric Dover)
Part IV. Listening to the Oriole (China)
16. Clement Attlee's Break
17. Popeyed among the Tibetans: The Undiplomatic Rapture of the Cultural Delegation
18. Cadillacs, Coal Mines, and Co-operatives: The Second Labour Delegation Grapples with the Facts
19. 'Nuts about Pavlov'? Resuming the Scientific Dialogue
Part V. The Artist's Reckoning (China)
20. Revolution Comes to the Art Schools and Museums
21. Paul Hogarth's Sky Full of Diamonds
22. Stanley Spencer's English Takeaway
Afterword: Holy China?
Appendix: Membership of Three Delegations
Photographic Acknowledgements

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