tirsdag 19. april 2022

China and the US : The Alliance That Shook the World

In the early 1940s, in between performing classics like “Ol’ Man River” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” the African American singer, actor, and activist Paul Robeson liked to surprise concertgoers with the somber melody and defiant lyrics of “Chee Lai!” — or “March of the Volunteers.” Singing in flawless Chinese, Robeson hoped to show solidarity with China in its struggle against Japan.

Robeson began singing “Chee Lai!” at the apex of his fame, after being introduced to the song by Liu Liangmo, a Chinese musician and journalist he met in New York City in 1940. The two men became fast friends, forming a musical partnership that culminated in the release of the album “Chee Lai: Songs of New China” the following year.

The story of Robeson and “Chee Lai!” is just one of the Chinese-African American encounters explored by Gao Yunxiang in her new book, “Arise, Africa! Roar China: Black and Chinese Citizens of the World in the Twentieth Century.” A professor of history at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, Gao has spent the last two decades teaching and researching modern Chinese social and cultural history from a transnational perspective.