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New Left Review I/120, March-April 1980

Tamara Deutscher

China Notebook

I had no illusions—I was well aware that during an eighteen-day stay in China I would not gather enough material to write even a journalistic article, let alone a more serious analysis or essay. I had adopted a somewhat self-righteous attitude towards those who after their first short trip produce a Book on China. My knowledge of Chinese affairs had been scanty; ignorance of the language would, I knew, keep me excluded from life around me. Reliance on official guides and interpreters is frustrating in any country, but in China it is even more so as the English of these guides and interpreters is basic and limited to purely ‘touristic’ needs. Very often conceptual differences and differences of approach lead to misunderstandings; and attempts to discuss somewhat more abstract subjects end by talking at cross purposes. Preparing for the journey I kept promising myself and others that I would not write ‘On China’. Yet such was the impact of my experience that I could not refrain from keeping a diary, as I felt the need to make my impressions less ephemeral. In what follows no attempt is made to systematize information received or draw any general conclusion from what I observed.

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