Like many Black liberation activists and scholars, leaders of the Nation of Islam had a friendly relationship with Communist China. W.E.B. DuBois, for example, spent his birthday in 1959 celebrating in China. NOI head Elijah Muhammad and his one-time protege, Malcolm X, often spoke in glowing terms of China.
Muhammad even held an audience with a group of Chinese reporters and discussed a range of topics from the Vietnam War and Black liberation to America and Islam.
The Communist Party of China is the sole governing political party of the People’s Republic of China. Here are five things to know about what Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X said about the Chinese Communist Party
Chairman Mao was a Chinese communist revolutionary and founding father of the People’s Republic of China, which he ruled from the establishment of the PRC in 1949 until his death in 1976.
During a 1964 rally in Harlem, New York City, Malcolm X praised Mao’s global leadership.
“They used to have a saying that one doesn’t have a Chinaman’s chance. But they don’t say that anymore. They used that expression back when China was weak. But now that Mao Zedong has been successful in making China a strong country, the Chinese have more chances than anybody else,” Malcom X said.
He continued, “Well just as it took a strong China to give a Chinese person respect wherever that Chinese person is found on this earth, when we get a strong Africa, the person of African origin or African ancestry will be respected anyplace on this earth, even in America. But he will not be respected in America until Africa is strong, just as the Chinaman wasn’t respected abroad until China became strong.”
In 1840, Britain went to war with China over trade and opium trafficking. The war arose from China’s attempts to suppress the opium trade. In the spring of 1839, the Chinese government confiscated and destroyed more than 1,400 tons of opium that were warehoused in China by British merchants.
“I listen today to the radio, and watch television, and read the headlines about the collective white man’s fear and tension concerning China. When the white man professes ignorance about why the Chinese hate him so, my mind can’t help flashing back to what I read, there in prison, about how the blood forebears of this same white man raped China at a time when China was trusting and helpless. Those original white ‘Christian traders’ sent into China millions of pounds of opium,” Malcolm said in “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.”
“By 1839, so many of the Chinese were addicts that China’s desperate government destroyed twenty thousand chests of opium. The first Opium War was promptly declared by the white man,” Malcolm X wrote.
Muhammad wrote in 1966 of his esteem for Mao in the NOI newspaper, Muhammad Speaks. That was the year the Black Panther Party was founded by college students Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, and David Hilliard in Oakland, California to protect Black Americans from police brutality.
“The People’s Republic of China has become the 1st non-African nation to come out openly in support of the struggle of Black people in America,” Muhammad wrote. “…Mao Tse-tung, the most esteemed & beloved leader of the Chinese people, expresses high tribute & resolute support.”
Malcolm X defended China against what he deemed America’s dismissal of the Asian superpower.
“China is a nation of 700 million people. Physically they exist; physically they exist. I don’t go along with the American reaction of pretending that 700 million Chinese don’t exist. When I was in Africa during the summer, everywhere I looked, I saw Chinese,” Malcolm X wrote in the 1965 book, “Malcolm X Speaks: Selected Speeches and Statements.”
In the “Autobiography of Malcolm X,” Malcolm X wrote of “Red China’s” pushback against white Westerners and how the country closed its doors to the white Western world. He discussed China’s fast-growing population, increased tensions between China and Western countries such as the U.S. and massive Chinese agricultural, scientific, and industrial efforts.
“Some observers inside Red China have reported that the world never has known such hate-white campaign as is now going on in this non-white country where, present birth-rates continuing, in fifty more years Chinese will be half the earth’s population,” Malcolm X wrote.
Malcolm X also warned that the rest of the world should take note of China’s military power. On Oct. 16, 1064, China conducted its first nuclear weapons test.
“And it seems that some Chinese chickens will soon come home to roost, with China’s recent successful nuclear tests,” Malcolm X wrote.
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