Already Seen: A Deja Vu in History

Yi Xing
Renmin University of China, Master of Journalism, Class of 2014
China Daily Reporter in London

Find out more about SACU’s archive here:

I learned about the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding from Dr Linxi Li before I came to the United Kingdom in the summer of 2022. I was in Beijing applying for my visa, and I called Linxi who had lived in the UK for six years to meet in order to find out some information about the country where I would be working for the next few years.

We decided to stroll around Jingshan Park with two friends, and while we climbed the small mountain, Linxi told me that while she was in the UK, she helped SACU to digitize its historical archives, including many old photos and records of SACU members visiting China in the 1970s to 1980s. How did the British back then view socialist China? These archives may tell a good story, I thought, so I told Linxi that when the database is made public I also want to take a look.

Time flies, and now it has been a year since I landed in London. Because of busy reporting work, I forgot about SACU but I met Keith Bennett in an interview and we became good friends. When I attended Keith’s birthday party in September, Iris Yau, who was at the same table with me, mentioned SACU when she introduced herself and sent me the latest issues of the China Eye magazine. In the magazine, I saw the name of Linxi, who is the archivist for SACU, and all that she told me on top of the Mountain Jingshan last summer came back to me. I couldn’t help but exclaim to Iris that this is such a small world, where people with the same interests will always meet each other.

Linxi then assisted me in browsing the SACU archives that are put online and sent me one academic paper she wrote based on some of the archives, How Intellectual Elites Get Involved in News Production: The Correction Practice on China-related Coverage by the Press Group of Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding, which was published in September in one of the most authoritative journals of journalism and communication research in China. Her paper examines the various ways in which SACU members corrected biased coverage of China in the mainstream media in the UK and the United States in the 1960s.

The study mentions that Joseph Needham founded the SACU to work on the dissemination of information about all aspects of Chinese social life and thought without preconceived prejudices, dogmatic views, or ideological constraints. SACU and the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries established an exchange and cooperation program.

Since 1970, SACU started to organize China Tours, which brought hundreds of social elites and professionals to China over the next decades, and their personal experiences in China have become the exclusive materials to refute the inaccurate reports from the media. Because with up-to-date and first-hand sources, even if they could not completely convince the author, the information would make the debate more meaningful.

After reading the research paper, I felt that all history is contemporary history, and that there are striking similarities between the media’s coverage of China 60 years ago and now. Many of the British and US media are reporting China with the same bias as in the old days. In the conclusion of her paper, Linxin also writes, “Historically, British intellectual elites have effectively intervened in news generation on China issues, pushing the British public’s perceptions of China from negative stereotypes to objectivity and even friendly understanding, and this is urgently needed in today’s international communication as well”.

Comparing the situation now and 60 years ago, I found the relations between China and the UK are still tense in the political discourse, but the development of the aviation industry has made international travel easier, and the internet has lowered the threshold of communication. It would be nice if people learned a little more from history: Our enemies are not each other, but our own pride and prejudice.


邢奕 中国人民大学2014届硕士毕业生,现中国日报驻伦敦记者


一转眼,自我抵英已经一年多。因为琐碎的工作,我也忘了英中了解协会的事情,但因采访结识了Keith Bennett先生。九月初,我参加Keith 的生日聚会,与我同桌的丘靜雯在介绍自己时提到了英中了解协会,并发给我最近一期的《中国眼》电子杂志,在目录中我看到作为英中了解协会档案管理员的李琳熙,我不禁对丘靜雯感叹道这是一个小世界,兜兜转转,志同道合的人总会相遇。