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This essay investigates the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa under the directorship of Paul Engle and Hualing Nieh during the Cold War. It argues that the exchange and translation of literature at Iowa had been enabled and circumscribed by Cold War politics, interrogating the proximity between US Cold War agenda and Iowan literary ideal by critiquing Cold War liberalism embodied by Engle and Nieh. Their translation of Mao Zedong’s poems epitomizes a political and literary archive of the Cold War, symptomatically illustrating the figure and signification of “China” in the US imagination, and demonstrating the intimacy between literary production and political endeavor. Reading Nieh and Engle’s translation of Mao’s poems as letters of the US Empire specifically scripted through and within Cold War geopolitics, this essay interrogates the neutrality of creative writing and literary translation foundational to and claimed by the International Writing Program since its establishment in 1967.