Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - Orientalist Ambivalence and Mirror Images: Arab Writings of Early Maoist China

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Truman, Mezzanine Level

Throughout the 1950s and 60s Arab authors and travelers, inspired by nascent tri-continental solidarities, flocked to see “new China” and its efforts at socialist construction (al-bina al-ishtirakiyya). Some of these were momentary visitors whose entry to the PRC was arranged at a whim in the context of a fraternal gathering of communist parties or as fellow-travelers; others (including a few ‘reactionaries’) were extended invitations in the spirit of the CCP's united front strategy to foster good-will or as part of delegations such meetings as the Asian-African Conference of Writers held in Beijing with great fanfare in 1966; yet a few others had the opportunity to settle in China as foreign experts and translators working for the external-propaganda apparatus.

Many of these visitors left a rich body of works communicating their impressions, hopes, and anxieties about China, but which were, on closer examination, mostly about the Arab World and the authors' own ideological struggles. This talk will showcase three clusters of works reflecting different genres representing this Sino-centric canon. Travelogues make-up the first cluster, including the writings of Abdul Salam Al-Adhami (1953), Mahmud Al-Durra (1964), and Nasser Al-Nashashibi (1965). The novel constitutes the second cluster, particularly the trilogy of the celebrated Syrian communist Hanna Mina, Hadatha fi beytakhu [It Happened in Beidaihe], which he wrote based on his experiences living in China in the mid-1960s. The third cluster focuses on intellectual discourses that looked to China as an example polemical debates against ideological antagonists. The writings of Mohammed Jalal Keshk, the former-communist-turned-Islamist, and mainly those dealing with al-ghazu al-fikri [Thought Invasion], exemplify this genre.

Mohammed al-Sudairi

University of Hong Kong, Not Applicable, Hong Kong

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3 - Orientalist Ambivalence and Mirror Images: Arab Writings of Early Maoist China

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