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China's America

The Chinese View the United States, 1900-2000

Jing Li

Publication Year: 2011

A fascinating look at Chinese perceptions of the United States and the cultural and political background that informs them. What do the Chinese think of America? Why did Jiang Zemin praise the film Titanic? Why did Mao call FDR’s envoy Patrick Hurley “a clown?” Why did the book China Can Say No (meaning “no” to the United States) become a bestseller only a few years after a replica of the Statue of Liberty was erected during protests in Tianamen Square? Jing Li’s fascinating book explores Chinese perceptions of the United States during the twentieth century. As Li notes, these two very different countries both played significant roles in world affairs and there were important interactions between them. Chinese view of the United States were thus influenced by various and changing considerations, resulting in interpretations and opinions that were complex and sometimes contradictory. Li uncovers the historical, political, and cultural forces that have influenced these alternately positive and negative opinions. Revealing in its insight into the twentieth century, China’s America is also instructive for all who care about the understandings between these two powerful countries as we move into the twenty-first century.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Front Cover

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Copyright page

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pp. iv


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pp. v


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

Many people kindly helped me as I wrote this book. It is impossible to name them all or thank them enough. I would like to identify the following individuals and institutions and express my deep appreciation of their support.I am tremendously grateful to Dr. Richard J. Smith at Rice University, who taught me, kindly befriended me, and provided guidance and encouragement ...

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Note on Romanization

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pp. xi

The pinyin system of romanization is generally used in this book, with a few exceptions. Older romanizations of names and terms are used where these traditional transcriptions are more familiar to Western readers—for example, “Chiang Kai‑shek” instead of “Jiang Jieshi,” or “Sun Yat‑sen” instead of “Sun...

Illustration Credits

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pp. xiii

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pp. 1-9

One day in March 1998, while meeting with a group of delegates to the Chinese National People’s Congress, Jiang Zemin, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and president of the People’s Republic of China, suddenly started talking about Hollywood movies. High‑spirited and expansive, Jiang told his audience how he had enjoyed certain American films. Some ...

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1: Statesmen, Scholars, and the Men in the Street, 1900 –1949

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pp. 11-50

On New Year’s Eve 1900, Liang Qichao—thirty years old and already a prominent Chinese scholar and political activist of his time—was aboard a ship sailing across the Pacific to North America. Too excited to sleep, Liang stayed up that night and composed a long, passionate poem to mark the historic moment that he was experiencing: “At the turn of the century / astride ...

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2: “Farewell, Leighton Stuart!”: Anti-Americanism in the Early 1950s

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pp. 51-69

On October 1, 1949, standing atop the Gate of Heavenly Peace in Beijing, Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China. A new era in Chinese history thus began, one that would see drastic changes in almost all aspects of life in China, including the Chinese outlook on the United States. The revolutionaries who conquered ...

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3: Challenging a Taboo: China’s Liberal Critics and America in 1957

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pp. 71-90

For Chinese intellectuals, 1957 was a year of high‑flying hope and heart‑wrenching sorrow. In one powerful outburst known as the Hundred Flowers Movement, China’s liberal critics spoke out against the Chinese government. Voicing their discontent on a wide range of issues, venting anger that had been building up since 1949, the Chinese intellectuals called for the ruling Communist ...

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4: Communist Crusade and Capitalist Stronghold: Mao’s Everlasting Revolution and the United States, 1957–1979

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pp. 91-120

The fiasco that was the Hundred Flowers Movement of 1957 taught the Chinese government an unforgettable lesson: never take public opinion lightly. Its confidence shaken and its prestige damaged, the state grew ever more vigilant in its efforts to shape public outlook on the world. Guidance must be constant and heretical ideas must be dispelled swiftly. The government was now ...

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5: A Balancing Act: The People’s Daily, 1979–1989

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pp. 121-144

In 1973, while meeting with Henry Kissinger, Mao Zedong had told his American visitor that, notwithstanding the newly forged strategic cooperation between China and the United States, the Chinese government had to continue its denunciation of American imperialism. In doing so, Mao was being candid. For a very long time the notion that U.S. was the greatest evil ...

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6: Chinese Review America: The Dushu Magazine, 1979–1989

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pp. 145-167

Dushu, or Reading, a book review monthly based in Beijing, came into being in 1979, when the wave of reform started to sweep across China. Riding the tide of the dramatic changes that followed, the journal soon achieved respectability and popularity among educated Chinese. The circulation numbers were never truly large, ranging from forty to one hundred thousand monthly copies. ...

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7: Popular and Not-So-Popular America: The Chinese Masses and the U.S.A. in the 1980s

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pp. 169-190

In the 1980s, the average Chinese, like officials and intellectuals of China, viewed the United States in a milieu shaped by the major developments of the decade. First, an ongoing market‑oriented reform helped legitimize the socioeconomic system that America epitomized. Secondly, as China’s economy grew, contacts and exchanges with the United States expanded, dramatically ...

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8: Shall the Twain Ever Meet?: Old Themes and New Trends in the Last Decade of the Century

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pp. 191-225

During the 1990s, China experienced a notable transition from the political idealism typical of the preceding decade to a much less exciting but far more comforting economic pragmatism. The tragic failure of the 1989 protest movement destroyed the hope, held by many Chinese, for rapid democratic changes in China. The watershed event shifted the attention of the nation ...

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pp. 227-231

The creation of Chinese images and interpretations of the United States is a continuous historical process, featuring active interplay of multiple factors. Foremost among these are the cultural differences between China and the United States; the particular circumstances under which China attempted modernization; the distinct preoccupations and propensities of various sociopolitical ...

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Historiographical Note

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pp. 233-236

Until recently, research on Chinese views of the United States has been relatively limited. When, in 1991, David Shambaugh published his Beautiful Imperialism: China Perceives America, 1972–1990, Gilbert Rozman of Princeton University noted: “A vast literature is concerned with American images of China and the Soviet Union and Soviet images of America, but this is the ...


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pp. 237-274


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pp. 275-290


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pp. 291-302

E-ISBN-13: 9781438435183
E-ISBN-10: 1438435185
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438435176
Print-ISBN-10: 1438435177

Page Count: 316
Illustrations: 14 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1