What Kind of Relationship Should China Have with the West?
Four decades ago, as far as the West was concerned China was a dreadful place. Wrought with anger and poverty, isolated, aloof and arrogant, China seemed obtuse in its oath to bury American imperialism and “repair” Soviet revisionism. In 1968, the West was equally appalling to the eyes of the Chinese: declining, corrupt, polarized, and belligerent, the West had placed its faith in the Chinese youth to overthrow their own regime.
Due to restrictions on the flow of information, China has been known to the West mostly through the sometimes biased individuals and organizations that abhor the Communist regime. Yet the mainland Chinese did not really understand the West either. Leaders and scholars in the West pictured a chaotic China whose government would collapse after the onset of the Cultural Revolution. However, what the Chinese public believed in 1968 was that the student protest in Paris was indeed a legacy of the Cultural Revolution itself, that the assassination of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy had sounded the death knell for American imperialism, and that a government manipulated by Wall Street would soon be overturned. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Tiananmen Square criticizing the US atrocities in Vietnam and chastising racial discrimination in America. During the 1968 Democratic National Convention protest in Chicago, the Chinese state media even reported that poor, black, and young Americans had united together in a class struggle against the capitalist government.