China Watchers

In an article in The Breeze from the 18th October 1971, it announces that a new club has been formed on campus the ‘China Watchers’. It states that the group has been formed in response to growing interests in the Peoples Republic of China. Madison College at this point was offering a Sino-Soviet studies major so naturally people with that major would most likely be interested in the club.  The article goes on to state that the first meeting was attended by 23 students and several faculty members, which is quite a good turn out considering the size of the student body at the time and also how many people tend to attend these sort of things anyway. They emphasis the point that they are not offering a political stance on affairs but are just seeking to understand the country better and pass on that information to others. Later in Ocotober, October 27th to be precise the Peoples Repbulic of China was granted a seat in the United Nations, this helped to increase the legitimacy of the government, moreover China would have been discussed a lot in the news so that would have helped to stimulate interest in the club.

In December 3rd edition of The Breeze it is reported that on the 6th the China Watchers will be hosting a ChinaNight, it will be charging $1 for entry. Unfortunately because this is advertising the event, we cannot know how many people attended the event. The evening involved the screening of “The East is Red” which at the time was the only movie released in the United States from the Peoples Republic of China. The movie is essentially a propaganda piece depicting the story of the Chinese Communist Parties rise to power. At the night Chinese food and tea was also served, providing a rounded experience.

The China Watchers were not just involved in events on campus, but they also did outreach to local high schools were they went in an spoke to high-schoolers about issues surrounding China. This is reported in the March 10, 1972 edition of The Breeze, it also mentions how one of the members along with the faculty member appeared on local WSVA television station to discuss Nixon’s visit to the Peoples Republic of China. It also mentions how three members of the club attended a national conference in New York City.

For the beginning of the Fall semster in 1972 the China Watchers has managed to become an officially recognized club. In the coming year they plan to show the films; “The 1971 Afro Asian Table Tennis Tournament” and “Report from China”.

In the edition of The Breeze from the 17th of November 1972, it is plea for a donation of college books for a book drive which the China Watchers club is organising as part of greater drive being run by the Asian Foundation. In response to UNESCO announcement of 1972 being International Book Year, this was an effort to try redistribute books around the world as lots of countries lacked resources for learning. The plea in The Breeze concluded it wanted to

“destroy any wall of ignorance and poverty”

Postage marking of books donated for UNESCO International Book Year.

Postage marking of books donated for UNESCO International Book Year.

On April 13th to 14th 1973 Madison College hosted the Spring Colloquis of the Virginia Asian Studies Consortium, the theme of the meeting was “China in the Contemporary World”. This is an interesting theme as it shows an awareness that China is beginning to engage in world affairs more and be more open, this can be seen in the fact that the United States had just opened a liaison office in Beijing. The fact that Madison College hosted such an event is interesting as that requires quite a lot of the work so shows a high level of commitment and interest by members of the college.

However after this no reference to the China Watchers can be found perhaps because the organization was run by a dedicated group of individuals and once they graduated there was no one really to take their place.

 Works Cited

The Breeze, October 18, 1971

The Breeze, December 3, 1971

The Breeze, March 10, 1972

The Breeze, September 22, 1972

The Breeze, November 17, 1972

The Breeze, April 10, 1973

Ball, S. J. The Cold War : an international history, 1947-1991 / S.J. Ball. n.p. New York : St. Martin’s Press, 1998.