Who can I trust after this?

Miriam Dobson

  • Red at Heart: How Chinese Communists Fell in Love with the Russian Revolution by Elizabeth McGuire
    Oxford, 480 pp, £25.00, November 2017, ISBN 978 0 19 064055 2

Beijing, 1920. A young member of the new Communist Party in China, Zhang Guotao, is discussing revolutionary politics with a Comintern representative dispatched from Moscow. ‘Filled with youthful enthusiasm’, the Russian visitor ‘very easily fell in with people that held the new attitudes … And he drew no distinction between Chinese and foreigners, between the yellow and white races … His behaviour showed him to be truly a new kind of Russian emerging from the Revolution.’ For Zhang, the encounter was unexpected. Until the 1920s, as he later recalled, educated Chinese had viewed tsarist Russia as ‘filled with corruption, darkness, despotism and backwardness’. Russia was an aggressive neighbour greedy for Chinese territory. The people themselves were ‘looked upon as curious Arctic creatures, covered with long hair, dressed in heavy furs and given to drinking and arrogance. They were called “Old Hairy People”.’

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