Update! I have a new book. Just Published

"Opening to China: A memoir of normalization 1981 - 1982"  Cambria Press 2017



This is what I said at the Cambria Press book launch at the AAS in Toronto, March 2017

Many of you here may not even remember what it was like to study China during the Cold War, when we could not go there.  But I began my teaching career in the mid 1960s, at its height.  The PRC was hidden behind the Bamboo Curtain.  Taiwan and Hong Kong didn’t really count… You then can imagine how we responded to Nixon’s visit to China in 1972.  Thrilled!  The decade that followed was one of very tentative rapprochement and  limited travel, via delegations approved by PRC authorities.  Think  “socialist tourism”:  two week guided tours, itineraries chosen by our hosts. .   Nonetheless, we all schemed to get a place on a delegation---and then we wondered what on earth we had seen (  the 1970s were  the height of the Cultural Revolution as it turned out).

Then in 1979  President Carter negotiated full diplomatic relations.  Among the changes: a full  American diplomatic mission in Beijing, some Western journalists could be posted there, a few big banks set up shop, and the Fulbright program  of  international exchange of scholars and  teachers, suspended since 1950, was resumed.

            And I wangled a year in Beijing as a Fulbright teacher.  Why and how the Chinese authorities chose a historian of China to teach young Chinese scholars about America is a curious story. The details are in the memoir, but it is one of many that show how uncertain PCR leaders were  about the new relationship between  us Americans and the Chinese—and also about the future direction of their own country.  My students weren’t ordinary university students: they were mostly young and a few middle-aged scholars--- products of education in Mao’s China.  All one way or another had assignments to teach college level English.  They came to Beijing from all over the nation.  Of course they were woefully unprepared: torn between curiosity about the outside world and anxiety about their own futures.  But their lives were an amazing window into the revolution’s history.

            So the memoir is the story of our mutual encounter.  I’d left my husband and daughter to embark on this adventure alone—and I wrote in detail about daily life in letters home—so much detail that my husband complained I didn’t seem to miss him. It was true…I knew the letters would be a record of an unusual experience---and I also knew when I came home in 1982 that I wasn’t ready to write about it all.  Thirty five years later, you have it. I am glad I  lived long enough to do this!

To see a video of my lecture introducing the book at USC on April 6, 2017  click on this link

Charlotte Furth

Professor Emerita of Chinese History
University of Southern California

Contact Information:


10511 Almayo Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90064

(310)-339-3315 (cell)

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