A New Storm against Imperialism: China's Cultural Revolution, the Afro-Asianist Press, and Global Freedom Dreams

Friday, January 3, 2020: 2:30 PM
New York Ballroom West (Sheraton New York)
Zifeng Liu, Cornell University
The issuance of Mao Zedong’s 1968 “Statement in Support of the Afro-American Struggle Against Violent Repression” marked a key moment when the African American radical tradition and Chinese socialism converged into a revolutionary alliance. During the heyday of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and the Black Power movement, the publicization of Mao’s article embodied the conscious, bidirectional interconnection between these two liberatory struggles within a print-centered Afro-Asianist public sphere. Central to this space was a congregated, transnational press—what I term the “Afro-Asianist” press—that emphasized the formation of an African American-Chinese anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist alliance as a requisite for worldwide emancipation and served to politicize and mobilize its reading public toward that vision.

Drawing on sources from both the U.S. and China, this paper presents the international circulation of this statement as a case study to examine the role of the Afro-Asianist press in linking the African American freedom movement and China’s Cultural Revolution into a unified struggle for global liberation. I demonstrate that through practices of quotation, translation, exchange, and distribution, the Afro-Asianist press fostered for the statement and Chinese-language texts it generated a broad reading public beyond the Chinese nation-state, and thereby injected Afro-Asianist ideas into communal deliberations on liberation in both African America and China. Furthermore, African American activist-intellectuals and those of them who actually visited China penned articles for and were quoted in both Chinese and Black newspapers and articulated a Sinified discourse of Afro-Asianism. I argue the Afro-Asianist press not only recast different experiences of marginalization and oppression and these two radical traditions in terms—either localized or universalist/globalized—productive for political alliances, but also assigned revolutionary agency to those victimized by interlocking systems of oppression.

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