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Selling America to Asians: The America Today Magazine and Cultural Diplomacy in the Cold War

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Abstract:

At the height of the Cold War, the United States was compelled to link domestic racial equality with its imperialist ambition. Its competition with the former USSR for a world leader position coincided with the rise of many newly liberated Third World countries. The critiques from these countries and Russia about the discrepancy between democratic ideology and practice in the United States forced the federal government to publicize the racial progress of nonwhites in cold war propaganda. The “fall” of China to communists and the outbreak of the Korean War propelled Asia into a significant military area in fighting communism. At the same time, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) launched strong criticism on U.S. civil rights. It thus became imperative for the federal government to showcase the integration of Chinese Americans into national identity, so that it could weather criticism and maintain its democratic leader position.

Directed by the tensions between the United States and Russia, historians mostly have focused on how U.S. cultural propaganda was deployed in Europe. Few, however, have written on cultural diplomacy in Asia. While scholars such as Walter L. Hixson have studied the Amerika magazine, none has examined its comparable Chinese version, the America Today magazine. Published in Hong Kong in Chinese and distributed through major American posts in East and Southeast Asia, the magazine was intended to cultivate support among Eastern and Southeastern Asians and to contain the influence of communism, especially communist China, since the latter was deemed the second most significant rival, after Russia. This article will analyze the America today magazine published from 1950 to 1953, which coincided with the span of the Korean War. My analysis of the magazine will bring to light the issues the United States Information Agency used to target Asians during the hottest tensions of the early cold war period. It will pay particular attention to racial progress. Although African Americans’ racial progress enjoyed central spotlight in cold war propaganda, the ambition to expand its political and economic influence in Asia and the desire to contain the PRC prompted the United States to promote the racial progress of Chinese Americans to further relationships with Chinese and other Asians. This study thus will contend that it is important to look beyond the prominent “black” and “white” racial paradigm when studying cold war cultural diplomacy, because Chinese Americans played an increasingly important role in the persuasive strategy. It will argue that the magazine emphasized the upward mobility enjoyed by Chinese Americans to showcase racial equality in the United States.
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Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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MLA Citation:

Yeh, Chiou-Ling. "Selling America to Asians: The America Today Magazine and Cultural Diplomacy in the Cold War" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, Oct 20, 2011 <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p504939_index.html>

APA Citation:

Yeh, C. , 2011-10-20 "Selling America to Asians: The America Today Magazine and Cultural Diplomacy in the Cold War" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p504939_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Review Method: Peer Reviewed
Abstract: At the height of the Cold War, the United States was compelled to link domestic racial equality with its imperialist ambition. Its competition with the former USSR for a world leader position coincided with the rise of many newly liberated Third World countries. The critiques from these countries and Russia about the discrepancy between democratic ideology and practice in the United States forced the federal government to publicize the racial progress of nonwhites in cold war propaganda. The “fall” of China to communists and the outbreak of the Korean War propelled Asia into a significant military area in fighting communism. At the same time, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) launched strong criticism on U.S. civil rights. It thus became imperative for the federal government to showcase the integration of Chinese Americans into national identity, so that it could weather criticism and maintain its democratic leader position.

Directed by the tensions between the United States and Russia, historians mostly have focused on how U.S. cultural propaganda was deployed in Europe. Few, however, have written on cultural diplomacy in Asia. While scholars such as Walter L. Hixson have studied the Amerika magazine, none has examined its comparable Chinese version, the America Today magazine. Published in Hong Kong in Chinese and distributed through major American posts in East and Southeast Asia, the magazine was intended to cultivate support among Eastern and Southeastern Asians and to contain the influence of communism, especially communist China, since the latter was deemed the second most significant rival, after Russia. This article will analyze the America today magazine published from 1950 to 1953, which coincided with the span of the Korean War. My analysis of the magazine will bring to light the issues the United States Information Agency used to target Asians during the hottest tensions of the early cold war period. It will pay particular attention to racial progress. Although African Americans’ racial progress enjoyed central spotlight in cold war propaganda, the ambition to expand its political and economic influence in Asia and the desire to contain the PRC prompted the United States to promote the racial progress of Chinese Americans to further relationships with Chinese and other Asians. This study thus will contend that it is important to look beyond the prominent “black” and “white” racial paradigm when studying cold war cultural diplomacy, because Chinese Americans played an increasingly important role in the persuasive strategy. It will argue that the magazine emphasized the upward mobility enjoyed by Chinese Americans to showcase racial equality in the United States.


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Representations of America in US cultural diplomacy in the Netherlands, 1944-1965.

The Reception of U.S. Cultural Diplomacy in Japan during the Cold War


 
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