So what happens when we introduce Sidney Rittenberg, his book (The Man Who Stayed Behind), his the film about him (The Revolutionary) and the man himself to a group of 1st-year college students in the Pacific Northwest? We’ll, let’s see:
Probably most noteworthy is Sidney’s view of the Bo Xilai affair, which is where he is mentioned Beijing’s concern with instability. Rittenberg was the first Western critic (not that that phrase much aptly describes him) to observe that Bo was not going to go far in the Chinese communist party leadership. The reason, according to Sidney, is Bo’s serious challenge to stability, evident during his meteoric rise in Chongqing, and even before in his position of mayor in northeastern Dalian.
Hopefully, a sense of Sidney’s frame of reference, to use the simple, elegant and apt Chinese 看法 (“seeing method”), was picked up by students in our one-day interaction with “the man who stayed behind.” Not unlike a pair of ill-fitting glasses, taking up Sidney-vision for a moment is no doubt distorting their present “reality,” but also do doubt an important corrective as they grow into their new world views which include greater concern with social (and economic) justice, and greater attention to US-China relationship, which remains, despite considerable efforts of those of us who teach about China, murky at best.