Declassified Chinese Diplomatic Documents from the 1950s and 1960s in the Wilson Center Digital Archive

Lately I have been translating some declassified Chinese diplomatic archives for the Wilson Center Digital Archive. I have done twenty so far.
A few are particularly memorable. I enjoyed translating Ziguang Hall literally rather than just using the transliteration!
Location: Zhongnanhai Hall of Barbarian Tributes (see Wiki
i alway wonder if there may be some subtleties that could escape us. Like the US Consulate General Chengdu in Chengdu being at No. 4 (an unlucky number as in 该死的美国人) Consulate Road.
When then French Senator (and much later a French president) Francois Mitterand saw Chairman Mao in 1960, he remarked on on breakneck industrialization thanks to the Great Leap Forward.
“Mitterrand: Yes. For example, when I came to China this time, I saw a lot of things, especially those small blast furnaces. This is quite ground-breaking work.” [ ]

Mitterrand: This is difficult. For the past twelve years I have gone to Africa once a year, especially to Black Africa. After I went to Africa last year, I felt that Chairman Mao’s influence there was getting bigger and bigger, not only political but also ideological and cultural. This is not something they asked me to tell Chairman Mao on their behalf. This is what I what I came to understand through my own personal experience.

The Chairman: This is worth studying. Why are the works of Charles de Gaulle, Churchill and Macmillan not finding buyers there?

Mitterrand: (laughs) I am afraid that I taken up too much of the Chairman’s time. I should say goodbye. It is a rare honor to call on the Chairman today.

The Chairman: (Looking at the table) If you want to talk, we can continue.

Mitterrand: This visit to China is not just for the sake of travel. I like traveling but I came to visit and understand China. After my arrival, I participated in some very enlightening programs arranged by the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs. I am particularly interested in the development of agriculture. I visited a people’s commune and an agricultural exhibition. I also read some very interesting books and articles. Before I left France, many right-wing newspapers were creating rumors and slandering China, saying that that China is experiencing and economic crisis and famine. But after I saw China, I realized that the Chinese people under the leadership of the President have made great efforts to overcome their difficulties. I am very admire this bold and courageous spirit.

The Chairman: We are having some difficulties but we are overcoming them. Some of the reports from the Western press service are wrong in some respect. Others, however, are deliberating creating rumors. Our industry and agriculture have made great progress but this progress takes time. We need a peaceful environment and the help of foreign friends. Even though there are Western news agencies are starting rumors that we are in a crisis say we have a crisis, we are still moving forward. Have you heard that their slander that we want war?

Mitterrand: (laugh). As I told my friends at the People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, there is a fashionable saying in the West recently — “Good Russians and war-like Chinese”. I have said to friends of the Institute of Foreign Affairs that the most fashionable phrase in the West is now: good Russians, militant Chinese.

The Chairman: If Chinese people have really done bad things, that can be criticized. But those people are slandering us and starting rumors about us. Although our two countries have no diplomatic relations, there are reporters here from AFP, and we have reporters in France so we can understand one another. People-to-people exchanges between our two countries are still going on along with economic, trade and cultural exchanges.

Mitterrand: Yes. For example, when I came to China this time, I saw a lot of things, especially those small blast furnaces. This is quite ground-breaking work.

The Chairman: We are creating something from nothing, going from small to large, from a few to many. In the course of our progress, there have been difficulties, but developments have been positive in the main. We have faith that we will overcome difficulties. The overall trend is towards progress and development. In 1900, the steel output in the United States was only 10 million tons. When Marx issued the Communist Manifesto (1848), Germany’s steel output was only about 10,000 tons. When France’s Alexandre Dumas fils wrote The Lady of the Camellias (1840), France still had no lights and cars, but people lit candles and rode in carriages. During the 120 years since 1840 down to the present, France has also been developing.

Mitterrand: Very true. But we also need cooperation between peoples. I hope that the Chinese leaders will give me the opportunity to, and to help me to make me some contribution to friendship and cooperation between our two countries.

The Chairman: In the past, our two countries have had much contact. Many of our friends have been to France. President Hu here has been to France. (Asked Hu, “Can you still speak French?” Hu answered, “I have forgotten a lot.”) Our Premier Zhou Enlai, Vice Premier Chen Yi, Li Fuchun and others have been to France although they may have forgotten their French. That’s enough for today.

Mitterrand: Let me thank the Chairman once again for receiving me. Our conversation has been very helpful.

The Chairman: Please come again to China again if you can. We will welcome you.

About 高大伟 David Cowhig

Retired now, translated Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and studying some things. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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