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New Left Review I/41, January-February 1967


W.J.F. Jenner

History in the Manufacture

As China grows in power and revolutionary achievement the Western world begins to take her history seriously. Chinese studies, particularly in the usa, have developed from an eccentricity to an industry. The American government, in its role of world gendarme concerned to strangle or corrupt popular revolutionary movements, has poured enormous sums into research on every aspect of modern China. The temptation to dismiss nearly all the work thus produced is one that may be indulged in without great damage to an understanding of China or excessive injustice to the career men who churn out tedious books and articles, based all too often on the work of the helots who translate and analyse the material for them in Hongkong or the usa. It is rare that an American scholar (to use the term by which they designate themselves) has any real understanding of what the Chinese revolution has been all about, though there are honourable exceptions. There is no American academic treatise I have yet seen that gives half so good an introduction to 20th century Chinese realities as Edgar Snow’s classic Red Star Over China or the passionately committed books of Agnes Smedley. The Chinese revolution has been made by the struggles of real people, not by organizational techniques and conference resolutions.

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