Living in Mao’s China
The European Experience 1949-1969
During the Mao era a small number of Europeans lived in the PRC – most of them for two or three years, a few for the whole period. This article focuses on those who, unlike diplomats and a handful of foreign correspondents, worked or studied in Chinese institutions: ‘foreign comrades’ (both long-term residents and sojourners), ‘foreign experts’ and students. The article shows how the everyday lives of these Europeans were strongly influenced both by Mao era’s ‘politics in command’ environment and by PRC policies that utilised them for political and pragmatic purposes while at the same time marginalising them from everyday Chinese life. It also illustrates the divisive impact of Maoist politics on each group. The Cultural Revolution brought a temporary halt to both the foreign expert and student presences in China, as well as being a traumatic period for the foreign comrades.