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New Left Review I/23, January-February 1964


James Wilcox

‘Peking and Moscow’

Peking and Moscow. Klaus Mehnert. Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 50s.

Dr Mehnert enjoys a considerable reputation both in his native West Germany and in the United States, as an expert on Communist politics—readers may remember his Anatomy of Soviet Man. He has spent some ten years in Russia and China—about five years in each, though he has only visited China briefly since the revolution. He does not attempt a systematic analysis of social or economic reality in Russia and China—perhaps his hostility to their socialisms prevented his going beyond the limits of his own immediate journalistic impressions, and of orthodox cold-war assessment of the development of the two countries and of their ideological positions. It is a pity that there is no serious treatment of economic problems, and that such major books on Chinese agriculture as Dumont’s ‘Revolution dans les campagnes chinoises’, on Chinese and Russian ideological positions as Enrica Collotti-Pischel’s La rivoluzione ininterrotta, and even Tibor Mende’s China and her shadow (one of the most serious and useful non-specialist books on China) are not included in the bibliography. The principal interest of this book lies in its wealth of psycho-social generalization, e.g. ‘There is, of course, in the Chinese a streak of fanaticism. . .’, ‘The Chinese simply does not like to emerge from his private sphere and commit himself to “ideas” or “movements”’; ‘I myself have a vivid memory of the Chinese aversion to logic and systematism. . .’; ‘This emotional and impulsive temperament of the Russians exemplifies, among all the people of Europe, the strongest contrast to the rational wisdom of the Chinese, at least of the educated Chinese, to his selfcontrol arising out of his continual state of harmony with his environment’—the list of such aperçus could be extended over 454 pages. James Wilcox

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