After Ping Pong, Before Kissinger
My first trip to China apparently began in Montreal.
A China Frontier: Once the Border of Borders
In 1961, when I first arrived in Hong Kong as an aspiring young China scholar, there was something deeply seductive about the way this small British enclave of capitalism clung like a barnacle to the enormity of China’s socialist...
Struggling with Antonioni
My first sight of Beijing was puzzling. It was October 1973, at the end of a very long flight, and the city seemed so dark I could hardly believe we had arrived.
Witnessing the Cultural Revolution at its Dawn
To this day, I am not sure why the Chinese government approved my request to visit the PRC in the summer of 1966.
The train from the old Kowloon station rumbled as it passed the Chinese border fence on its way to Canton and came to a lurching halt. It was a late summer day in 1981; I was thirty-two years old and now, as I reflected with deep...
Looking Back from Age Ninety
May 1944: Based on a language aptitude test, I was taken out of the infantry, training in the Oregon snows, and shipped down to sunny Stanford, to be trained in Japanese. I opted for Chinese instead, thinking this would bring me home...
The Alternative Route
Twenty-one years after the fact, my efforts to reconstruct my first trip to China produce a confusion of impressions in which multiple images are fused together and refuse to be unraveled or separated. Having lived in China for nineteen of...
The Opening Stage of China
At the outset of the 1960s, the newly installed Kennedy administration attempted an opening to Beijing. In early 1961, with Secretary of State Dean Rusk in command, an offer was made to exchange journalists, as I had proposed. I had talked...
My First Return Trip to China
Thomas Wolfe's admonition that “you can't go home again” notwithstanding, I returned to the land of my birth after an absence of 33 years. I was born in Nanjing and spent a good part of my childhood in Chongqing. In November 1937, Japanese...
With Nixon in China
On a chill, gray Monday morning, on February 21, 1972, I stood on the steps of the old Hongqiao Airport terminal. I had arrived in Shanghai twenty minutes in advance of President Nixon. I was on the backup plane, which arrived first, so I...
An Australian Gets to Beijing, 1964
In the early 1960s, few Westerners set foot in the People’s Republic of China. Australians needed permission from their own government to go there. Some got a green light, but Beijing guarded visas for people from non-Communist countries...
Coming Home to a New Place Each Time
As a Hong Kong-born Chinese who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, it’s hard to pinpoint my first trip to China; at least, one that I remember clearly, for my real first trip was as a toddler, in 1953 in the arms of my mother who carried me to...
When I began thinking about writing this piece, my first trip to China in 1984 had seemed like a disappointment. Unlike today, this was the China of Great Events: the launch of bold reforms and an era of intellectual ferment unlike any...
The Missionary Spirit Dies Hard
I started studying the Chinese language August 15, 1960 at 9 am. Confucius said "Establish yourself at thirty," and, having just celebrated my thirtieth birthday, I decided he was right. I would not be allowed to visit China, however,...
My Long March from Mao to Now
In my third year at McGill University in Montreal, a much older, married classmate suggested the two of us go to China during our summer vacation. I was 19; she was probably all of 25. When we applied for visas, she, a white Australian,...