Earlier this summer while helping tidy my father-in-law’s basement, I stumbled on a 1972 Newsweek copy headlined, “The China Nixon Will See.”
It was an enthralling, touching, and at times hilarious period piece. China was still very much closed off to the West, and Newsweek recounted tales by early visitors describing “a land without drug addiction or pollution, without crime or venereal disease; a land where there are no slums, no alcoholics and not even any bosses.”
The recently published My First Trip to China is a collection of early visitor accounts. Covering the 1960s–1980s, when China was just opening up, it is of course written with the benefit of hindsight that the Newsweek piece lacked, when 30 years of breakneck economic growth, massive pollution, and rampant corruption have contrived to overturn Mao’s utopia.