The Right Coast

June 21, 2005
 
Mao's Jewish Boy
By Maimon Schwarzschild

This obituary tells a weird story:
Israel Epstein, who has died in Beijing aged 90, was one of the last survivors of the band of foreign apologists for Mao Tse Tung, and propagated a heroic image of the Great Helmsman...

Epstein was born in Warsaw on April 20 1915. His parents, who were Jews and socialists, had been imprisoned for their political activities by the Russian authorities then in control of the city, and his mother had briefly been exiled to Siberia.

[Epstein] grew up in China, and by the mid-1940s was reporting for publications such as Time on the fight by the country's leader, Chiang Kai-Shek, against the invading Japanese. But as a lifelong Marxist Epstien hankered for a more radical leader...
For forty years and more,
Epstein edited the monthly English-language magazine China Reconstructs (now China Today). The journal invariably presented the best face of China to the West, and Epstein was regularly consulted by Mao, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping as to how the country could improve its image abroad.
In China, Epstein met and married Elsie Fairfax-Cholmeley, ten years older than he, the daughter of a left-wing Yorkshire squire. "They formed a harmonious pairing and she became much involved in his work."

Reading this picaresque story, it is crucial to remember -- the obit politely omits to point it out -- that in sheer numbers of human lives destroyed, the Chinese Communist regime was the single worst in all world history; Mao & Co left the Nazis and even Stalin's Soviets far, far behind.

That aside (as it were) -- Epstein's story is surely a curio. Read the whole thing. (Registration required at the Telegraph, though.)