RAS Lecture

Tavern at the Radisson Xingguo Hotel

Imagining “America” in Communist China of the 1950s and 60s

Speaker: Andrew Kuech

Throughout the 1950s and 60s depictions, denunciations and declarations against the United States filled the Chinese Communist presses and were made visible in the proliferation of mass art and political performances that decorated Chinese public spaces. In rhythm with Mao’s frequent condemnations of “American imperialists,” books, magazines, songs and plays created caricatures of how these “imperialists” looked and sensationalized the depravities of a strange American society.

Amidst the backdrop of these ubiquitous representations of the United States, however, the role of an imagined American enemy mobilized Chinese political society in a large number of ways. From the “Resist America, Aid Korea” war drive to the development of sanitation campaigns, from worker productivity competitions to rallyings for the liberation of Taiwan, from the economic mania of the Great Leap Forward to the creation of a Chinese-led Third World solidarity movement, the United States functioned as a consistent, if malleable, enemy for China to stay ever-vigilant against. Based upon ongoing doctoral research, this talk examines the visual and discursive ways in which the US was depicted and discussed throughout these various political and propaganda movements and argues that the imagined American enemy played a significant and prominent role in the development of both Chinese political and social life throughout the 1950s and 60s.

About the Speaker

Andrew Kuech is a PhD Candidate in Politics and Historical Studies at the New School for Social Research in New York City. He received a Master’s Degree in History from Northeastern University in 2011 and a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005. He has been living and doing dissertation research in China for the past year as a Fulbright Student Scholar. His dissertation examines the role of imagery and imaginings of the United States in the rival development campaigns of Communist and Nationalist China during the early decades of the Cold War, 1949-1965.

RSVP: bookings@royalasiaticsociety.org.cn