The Saga of Anthropology in China: From Malinowski to Moscow to Mao

By Gregory Eliyu Guldin | Go to book overview

Chapter 7

Learning from
Elder Brother

The Russians Were Coming
Soviet ideas, experts, and exports arrived in increasing numbers throughout the mid-1950s to a revolutionary China in the midst of land reform and new nationality policies. For academics this "leaning to one side" meant the wholesale replacement of the Western model with the Soviet one. "In the 1950s," one ethnologist recalled, "we criticized the West and followed the Soviet Union. But just as we had earlier done with the West, we swallowed whole the Soviet approach and uncritically applied it to our own fields."More than thirty years after the Sine-Soviet split, this abject adoption of Soviet perspectives may seem incomprehensible. But in the early and mid-1950s the Soviet Union was China's only important foreign policy ally, the only global power willing to aid China in its drive to build socialism. Furthermore, the Soviet Union was the only major country to have undergone a socialist transformation on the scale China was attempting. Would it not have been foolhardy not to learn from such an "elder brother's" experience?An American who lived in China at the time, Sidney Shapiro, writes in his memoirs that the Soviet Union had long
exercised a profound influence upon Chinese revolutionaries and progressive intellectuals. Its experiences were studied. Stalin's writings and the History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik), edited under Stalin's

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