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CHINA: Oriental Red Square

3 minute read

From all over Asia—and from Russia—official guests journeyed to Peking to help China’s Communists celebrate the second anniversary of their sweep to power. The first thing the guests learned about Chinese Marxism was that when it came to lodging and victualing them, at bowing favored guests to ringside tables and stashing the rest behind potted palms, the Chinese showed as much talent as the maître d’hôtel of any decadent capitalist nightclub. Guests were divided into five classes. Class A got Peking’s luxurious Hotel Wagon-Lits. Class B was put up in spacious villas such as the outlying Sapphire Bright Farmstead, once the home of a rich family. Classes C, D and E were bedded down in second-rate hotels, third-rate hotels and boarding houses.

The Products of Peace. Apart from Russia’s Propagandist Ilya Ehrenburg, the Class A guests were mostly from the wobbly-neutral Asian states: India sent 14 men, headed by one Pandit Sundarlal and including Nehru’s lackluster brother-in-law, Huthi Singh; Indonesia sent three delegates, Burma seven.*

The lovely city of Peking had no Red Square, like Moscow’s. So the Reds made one. In Gate-of-Heavenly-Peace Square, at the gates to the Forbidden City of the Manchus, where Mao now dwells in palatial simplicity, the army had laid a new roadway strong enough to sustain the crunch of parading Red tanks. Red bunting had been distributed to citizens by the bolt—even the coolies’ rickshaws were red-draped. A band of 700 musicians played the new song, The East Is Red, the Sun Is Rising; schoolchildren released thousands of peace doves, which napped out of sight while for six hours the products of peace trod by: paratroopers, light and heavy tanks (Soviet-made), howitzers, armored cars, and 400,000 civilians, pulling floats and flaunting menacing banners. Mao arrived at the scene in a shiny cultural contribution of the New China: its first homemade jeep.

The Payoff of Protocol. In the banquets and speeches that followed, the Indonesians were polite but not Reddish; they have been having Communist trouble at home. The Burmese did a little better: their chief delegate toasted Mao and denounced the U.S. But the real payoff for the Reds came from Pandit Sundarlal, who had arrived in Peking proclaiming that India wants China’s friendship, but also America’s and Britain’s. He had been “deeply impressed,” he said, by what he saw: “Every Indian knows that the Soviet Union stands for peace, that China stands for peace . . . We firmly believe that, under the leadership of Stalin and Mao, we can achieve the unity of people throughout the world.”

The men who passed out the seating arrangements in Gate-of-Heavenly-Peace Square were well rewarded for putting the Indians in Class A.

* Howard Fast, the Communist novelist, was invited, but since the State Department took away his passport, sent word that he is “a sort of house prisoner within the continental limits of the United States.”

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