A Sensational Encounter with High Socialist China

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A Sensational Encounter with High Socialist China is a recollection of the historic visit of fourteen American students (and one Canadian) to China in 1971. The visit was one of the first approved for American scholars after the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949 and occurred prior to President Nixon’s famous trip (as well as that of a second group of scholars) in 1972. One of these students, Paul Pickowicz, kept a journal and photographically documented the trip. This book is a personal account of the events leading up to their visa approvals as well as those that occurred during the journey itself. The five senses are used to connect the reader to his experience and are placed in the context of a theatrical production. The images included have been selected from an archive at the University of California, San Diego, which digitized the author’s images as well as those of others in the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars (CCAS) taken during both the 1971 and 1972 delegations.
Pub. Date
Oct 19, 2019
220 pages
215 x 215 mm
Paul Pickowicz asked me to write the preface for this book. I am humbled and honored to have this opportunity to share some information about an exciting new digital collection that is directly related to this volume.

We discovered Paul’s hidden treasure trove of images by serendipity. In fall 2015, the UCSD Library started a project to move Bill Joseph’s collection of more than 1200 digital slides of China in 1972 from Wellesley College to UCSD. Jonathan Walton, a UCSD PhD student, played a key role in connecting us to these photos. As the newly hired Chinese Studies Librarian at UCSD, I reached out to our own faculty to ask if these particular slides would be of use in their teaching and research. Then came a joyful finding. Paul emailed me that he had been associated with the organization referred to by Bill and that he was in the first group to visit China in 1971.

The organization, the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars (CCAS), was founded in March 1969 by Asian studies faculty and graduate students critical of the U.S. war in Vietnam. In the 1970s it became a strong supporter of the normalization of U.S.-China relations. The 1971 visit was the first by a group of university-based U.S. China specialists to China after the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. The 1972 group visit in which Bill Joseph participated was the second trip and came shortly after President Nixon’s historic journey. Both groups traveled throughout the country to meet with and document the lives of workers, farmers, students, government officials, and soldiers. With the help of many friends and colleagues in the United States, the 1971 group compiled a book titled China! Inside the People’s Republic (New York, Bantam Books), which appeared in March 1972 and served as a post-trip report on their historic encounter with China. Group members also published many articles and were interviewed by various newspapers after the visit. Many of them brought back images, documents, and memorabilia. These pictures and narratives provide firsthand insights into events that preceded the normalization of U.S.-China relations and also present a panoramic view of cultural and social conditions in China during the middle of the Cultural Revolution.

I was amazed by how fast Paul was able to deliver his archive to us after we learned of his connection to the first visit. He obviously had a good cataloging system for his files. Paul’s collection was nicely packaged, clearly marked, and systematically grouped. An unopened tea bag mixed in among some faded prints caught my attention. It turned out to be a 48-year-old tea bag of the type provided to foreign guests in their hotel rooms in summer 1971. Paul graciously donated his materials to the Library and granted us permission to digitize his more than 1000 color slides and black and white photos and to publish them online. With Paul’s and Bill’s generous donations, we were able to get the word out and make connections with other former CCAS China trippers, including Stephen MacKinnon of Arizona State University, Richard Kagan of Hamline University, Robert Entenmann of St. Olaf College, and Susan Shirk of UCSD, all of whom donated or expressed a desire to donate their materials to the UCSD Library in the future. We are deeply indebted to them for such support.

Paul has been a strong supporter and close collaborator of the Library for many years. In addition to his 1971 slide collection, he has also donated his Chinese village research archive, including a related collection of rare diaries, memoirs, and protest letters from 1944 to 1992 that were handwritten by Chinese peasant activist Geng Xiufeng. He also collected Cultural Revolution propaganda posters during his 1971 trip to China. These original posters were first donated and then digitized and published online by the UCSD Library a few years ago. The collection has been one of the best-known sites in the world for the study of propaganda posters.

The UCSD Library has been a catalyst in digitizing and preserving historical materials in a wide range of formats to support teaching, learning, and research. In January 2018, the Library launched the Digital Collection of the CCAS Friendship Delegations. We invited Bill, Paul, and Susan to the opening event and asked them to walk down memory lane to speak about their first encounters with China. Paul has expanded his reflection on his 1971 visit to China for this book by referring to the five senses as a way to weave together a grand landscape of his adventures in China in the middle of the Cultural Revolution — one of the most distinctive moments of the twentieth century, a time he refers to as “high socialism.” A great many images related to the five senses were selected from the digital collection to complement his written narrative.

To conclude, I offer a list of the resources mentioned above for you to explore:

Digital Collection of the Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars Friendship Delegations: https://lib.ucsd.edu/ccas

The Digital Collection’s launch event on January 18, 2018, “China through the Lens of Friendship Delegations in the 1970s” (video): https://library.ucsd.edu/dc/object/bb8808981r

Chinese Cultural Revolution Poster Collection: https://lib.ucsd.edu/ccr

Collection of rare diaries, memoirs, and protest letters from 1944 to 1992 that were handwritten by Chinese peasant activist Geng Xiufeng: http://roger.ucsd.edu/record=b6679567~S9

Xi Chen
UC San Diego Library

Overture: Hong Kong
Setting the Stage
The Opening Number
Act I: Touch
Act II: Sound
Act III: Taste
Act IV: Sight
Act V: Smell
Curtain Call: Hong Kong Again
A Look Backstage

Paul G. Pickowicz is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History and Chinese Studies at the University of California, San Diego, and inaugural holder of the UC San Diego Endowed Chair in Modern Chinese History. He has authored, co-authored, and co-edited various books, including Marxist Literary Thought in China (1981); Unofficial China (1989); Chinese Village, Socialist State (1992, winner of the Joseph R. Levenson Prize of the Association for Asian Studies); New Chinese Cinemas (1994); Popular China (2002); Revolution, Resistance, and Reform in Village China (2005); From Underground to Independent (2006); The Chinese Cultural Revolution as History (2006); Dilemmas of Victory (2007); China on the Margins (2010); Radicalism, Revolution, and Reform in Modern China (2011); China on Film (2012); Restless China (2013); Liangyou: Kaleidoscopic Modernity and the Shanghai Global Metropolis (2013); Filming the Everyday (2017); and China Tripping (2019). He has won three distinguished teaching awards from the UC San Diego Alumni Association (1998), Chancellor’s Associates (2009), and Academic Senate (2003) and was honored by the German government in 2016 when it presented him with a Humboldt Research Award for lifetime accomplishments in research and teaching. He has held visiting appointments at the University of Oxford, National University of Singapore, University of Edinburgh, University of Heidelberg, East China Normal University, City University of Hong Kong, Ecole Normale Superieure (Lyon, France), and Hong Kong Institute of Education. He is associate producer of the documentary films China in Revolution, 1911–1949 (1989) and The Mao Years, 1949–1976 (1994).