Piers Brendon

The Professor & the Chairman

The China Journals: Ideology and Intrigue in the 1960s

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Hugh Trevor-Roper, Regius Professor of History at Oxford from 1957 to 1980, compared his visit to China in 1965 to Lord Macartney’s famous diplomatic mission to the same country in 1793, which was a fiasco. The Chinese regarded Macartney and his entourage as foreign devils come to pay tribute to the divine Emperor Qianlong, who was outraged by Macartney’s refusal to kowtow. According to Trevor-Roper, the four members of his own delegation, representing the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU), were treated as ‘Outer Barbarians’ come to swell the Celestial Kingdom’s acclamation of the new ‘Son of Heaven’, Chairman Mao. Although bombarded by propaganda, Trevor-Roper also failed to kowtow. On the contrary, he damned the Maoist cult, declaring that the ‘processions, the parades, the flags, the historical perversions, the leader-worship, the hymns of hate have as much of nazism as of communism in them’.

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