China’s India PR guy

In the early days of the Russian Revolution, starry-eyed Western sympathisers made a beeline for Moscow to report on the glories of the 'Soviet paradise'. Lenin memorably referred to them as 'useful idiots', and exploited their naiveté to channel communist propaganda to the West. One such 'idiot', the American journalist Lincoln Steffens, went on a guided tour of the Soviet Union in 1919, seeing enough to gushingly pronounce: "I have been over into the future, and it works." We know what happened to that future.

After Western intellectuals became disenchanted with the excesses of Stalin, a new generation of leftist idealists turned to Mao and the Chinese Revolution for ideological succour. Like Lenin, Mao understood that he could turn their blind enthusiasm to his advantage, and used them to propagate stories that were wildly at odds with reality. Edgar Snow's account of Mao's heroics during the Long March has now been proven to be fiction. Tibet, too, suffered grotesque distortions of fact at the hands of China's handpicked Western acolytes. Roma and Stuart Gelder's Timely Rain came out in the early 1960s, when Tibet was reeling from its first-ever famine, a result of misguided communist policies. Han Suyin's optimistically titled Lhasa: An open city was written in 1975, at a time when Tibet was as closed to the outside world as North Korea is today. These writings have long been discredited, even as the horrific human cost of Mao's 'socialist' experiments has been exposed and the Communist Party of China has become capitalist in all but name.

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Himal Southasian