It was five years after the Communists had come to power, a honeymoon period of out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new. Chou Enlai had famously invited westerners to 'come and see' the New China, so they duly came.
Of course they were shown places the Chinese wanted them to see but basically most went away impressed, not least learning that China had somehow eradicated flies. This was, however, before the Great Leap Forward (or Backward) from 1958-61 and of course the Cultural Revolution from 1966-76.
|The cultural contingent at the Summer Palace|
But I digress. Back to the book. It is interesting, but also frustrating - in that it takes until page 269 before any of the delegations actually set foot in China - the preceding pages being an extended stroll through early 20th Century British-Chinese relations and an equally long account of stopovers in Moscow. The Notes and Index take up a further 100 pages. But worth it for a moment in history when China, coming out of a hellish 50 years of kow-towing to the West, civil war and fighting the Japanese, finally took control of its own destiny. And briefly, it seemed like Communism might be an answer.