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Opening to China: A Memoir of Normalization, 1981–1982 By Charlotte Furth ...

Chapter 1:  Becoming a Historian of China in Cold War America
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Opening to China:

Chapter 1

Becoming a Historian of China
in Cold War America

The path that led me to China began in 1957, when the Russians launched their famous Sputnik space capsule and heated up US–Soviet Cold War competition. When I arrived at Stanford in 1959 to begin doctoral work in history, I learned that the US government, through the National Defense Education Act, was offering fellowships to students willing to explore “critical area studies.” Asia, Africa, and Latin America (as well as the Soviet Union) were to be targets of scholarship aimed at expanding America’s global reach. I jumped at the chance to switch from French history to the history of China.

What motivated me? The more conservative of the congressmen who dangled this big pot of money in front of young scholars probably thought they were buying experts so that Americans could expand global influence and know our enemies. But I was drawn to the idea that a world-historical civilization had been basically invisible in my education. For an American to study France was to tend a