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China’s resistance to Imperial Japan was the other great internationalist cause of the ‘red 1930s’, along with the Spanish Civil War. These desperate and bloody struggles were personified in the lives of Norman Bethune and others who volunteered in both conflicts. The story of Red Friends starts in the 1920s when, encouraged by the newly formed Communist International, Chinese nationalists and leftists united to fight warlords and foreign domination.
John Sexton has unearthearthed the histories of foreigners who joined the Chinese revolution. He follows Comintern militants, journalists, spies, adventurers, Trotskyists, and mission kids whose involvement helped, and sometimes hindered, China’s revolutionaries. Most were internationalists who, while strongly identifying with China’s struggle, saw it as just one theatre in a world revolution.
The present rulers in Beijing, however, buoyed by China’s powerhouse economy, commemorate them as ‘foreign friends’ who aided China’s ‘peaceful rise’ to great power status.
Red Friends is part of Verso’s growing China list, which includes China’s Revolution in the Modern World and China in One Village. Founded on original research, it is a stirring story of idealists struggling against the odds to found a better future. The author’s interviews with survivors and descendants add colour and humanity to lives both heroic and tragic.
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