A cultural chronicle of the rich Chinese-Russian interplay and exchange from the 1920s to the 1950s.
McGuire (History/California State Univ., East Bay), who has lived and worked in both Moscow and Beijing, tells the stories of the many pioneering Chinese who became passionate students of Russian language and revolutionary thought and participated in exchange programs over the decades. She focuses on two waves of Chinese travelers: those politically active in the 1920s who were excited by the Bolshevik Revolution as having gone further than the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in China in 1911 and were eager to learn more; and those committed Communists who wanted to deepen the Sino-Soviet “friendship” of the 1950s. The author develops her thesis through the metaphor of romance, following specific stories—e.g., a circle of young Chinese students of Beijing University who were inculcated in the New China Movement and its magazine New Youth, which had offered translations of Russian literature. Newly opened institutions such as the Shanghai Foreign Languages School and Moscow’s Eastern University recruited the first Chinese students, including the son of Chiang Kai-shek, Jiang Jingguo, who was shocked by his father’s betrayal of his communist allies in 1927 and stayed in the Soviet Union for the next few years, marrying a Belorussian woman. Other love affairs between Chinese and Russians helped to enrich the cultural exchange. McGuire devotes a chapter to the legendary first wife of Mao Zedong, He Zizhen, who accompanied him on the Long March, bore him six children, and ended up a jilted wife studying in Moscow in the late 1930s. Sadly, many of the Sino-Soviet “love children” would be abandoned to Russian orphanages. Russian culture, especially cinema and music, invaded China in the 1950s, inspiring a new postwar generation that was “both politically correct, and, at times, hopelessly romantic.”
A lively history of Chinese-Russian political and cultural symbiosis.