Representing China: Lin Yutang vs. American “China Hands” in the 1940s

in Journal of American-East Asian Relations
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Abstract

In the 1930s and 1940s, American representations of China were divided between pro-Nationalist groups, notably Henry Luce's media enterprise, and a host of “China Hands” accused of being pro-Communist. Though these “China Hands” came from diff erent professions – journalists (Edgar Snow, Theodore White), academics (Owen Lattimore, John Fairbank), political activists (Agnes Smedley) – they formed a distinct group of American liberal cosmopolitan intellectuals. They achieved their cultural capital through their writings on China as “China experts.” Unlike their predecessors, they were Progressive liberals who allied themselves with the cause of China's modernization. But their vision ran against that of a Chinese cosmopolitan intellectual – Lin Yutang. With the initial support of Pearl Buck, Lin became the most well-known liberal intellectual from China and the self-styled cultural and political spokesman on U.S.-China relations in the 1940s America. Lin's debate with the “China Hands” over American representation of China spelled the end of his “American success.” By revisiting this debate, I do not want to re-invoke the issue of “Who Lost China?” Instead, this article maps out a critical terrain for understanding and questioning liberal cosmopolitan diff erence over American representations of China.

Representing China: Lin Yutang vs. American “China Hands” in the 1940s

in Journal of American-East Asian Relations

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