Israel Epstein (1915-2005)
Israel Epstein was a naturalized Chinese journalist and author, who served as an ardent essayist for Mao Zedong nd and Chinese communism. Although born in Poland to Jewish parents, his family fled to China when he was two years old. He worked as a journalist in his teens writing for the Peking and Tientsin Times, an English language newspaper based in Tianjin. He also covered the Japanese invasion of China for Western news agencies. He joined the China Defense League and even faked news about his own death as a decoy for the Japanese who were trying to arrest him. Epstein became acquainted with Edgar Snow after he was tasked with reviewing one of Snow’s books. He was even given the chance to see the classic “Red Star Over China” before it was published. In Hong Kong, Epstein worked with Soong Ching Ling, Sun Yat-sen’s widow, allowing for the opportunity to meet Mao. Epstein interviewed Mao extensively, which led to the publication of a series of glowing portrayals of Mao. After the Second World War, Epstein moved to America with his wife, where he published The Unfinished Revolution in China. After American attitudes to Communism hardened, Epstein moved back to China where he was invited to edit China Today (then called China Reconstructs). He became editor in 1951 and held that position until 1985. He took Chinese nationality in 1957, joined the Communist Party in 1964, and rose to a position of considerable prestige. During the Cultural Revolution, Epstein was imprisoned due to political reasons, but after five years in solitary confinement was released with an apology and the restoration of his exalted position. Despite this, he remained loyal to the ideals of Communism until his death, and was appointed to China's upper advisory chamber in 1983. His major books include From Opium War to Liberation, The People’s War, and The Unfinished Revolution in China. Epstein died in Beijing at the age of 90. Before his death, Hu Jintao visited him and praised his “special contributions”.
Israel Epstein on the train to Tai'erzhuang in 1938