Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Friday, June 03, 2005

Well, another one of the old "China Hands" has passed away. Israel Epstein is dead at the age of 90. Eppie was one of the group of what Cold War Americans called "Communist sympathizers," who were involved in the development of "New China" during the thirties and forties, and throughout the first days of the new country. Epstein was somewhat different from the others, because he did not come here as a wide-eyed idealist looking for utopia. He was brought here by his parents at the age of two. He was not born in China, but he does not rememeber any other place. He became a citizen in 1957.

I remember a few years ago, when he was honored at a ceremony in Shanghai. Prominent officials praised his efforts on behalf of China, and talked about the importance of "Foreign Experts." That was before I was a "Foreign Expert" myself, but the comments at the time still struck me funny. This guy came to China when he was two years old. He has lived in China all of his life. He has been a citizen of this country longer than most people in China have been alive. But he is still a "Foreign Expert." Once a foreigner, always a foreigner. That's Asia.

There aren't many of these "China Hands" left, now. I have just been reading Rewi Alley's autobiography. He died a few years ago. And most of the others, Agnes Smedley, Anna Louise Strong, Ma Haide, and of course, Soong Ching-ling, the "mother hen" of them all--they're gone. Sidney Shapiro is still living, but he is getting pretty old now, too.

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