Negotiating Politics and Academia

Stephan Feuchtwang
President of BACS 1999-2002

Essay Full Text

Preview:  We had the example of the previous tour arranged by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, UK professors of Chinese. They had a very Cold War-era mistrust of their hosts. We, younger and junior sinologists, would be more polite. This was in April 1976, during the last throes of Jiang Qing and her gang; they issued denunciations of Deng Xiaoping and implicitly of Zhou Enlai, who had just died and been passionately mourned by spontaneous crowds. We witnessed the contrasting spectacle of work units trucked in to parade official denunciation in a state of high tension that lasted for our whole three-week tour. We kept up good relations with our hosts and among each other. Towards the end of the tour some of us, on a train journey—others, including me, in other compartments, perhaps not just literally—thought about starting a British Association for Chinese Studies. I joined later and eventually served as President, in 1999-2002, some twenty years after it was founded. I thought it might be interesting to record briefly, from my experience, the Cold War atmosphere out of which we were emerging when BACS was formed.