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THE USES OF FOREIGNERS IN MAO-ERA CHINA: ‘TECHNIQUES OF HOSPITALITY’ AND INTERNATIONAL IMAGE-BUILDING IN THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC, 1949–1976

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 September 2015

Abstract

This paper focuses on the inner workings of Mao-era China's ‘foreign affairs’ system (waishi xitong): the complex, comprehensive web of bureaucracy woven after 1949 to monitor and control Chinese contact with the outside world. It explores one of the channels along which the People's Republic between 1949 and 1976 tried to project international, soft-power messages beyond conventional diplomatic channels: the inviting of so-called ‘foreign guests’ (waibin) on carefully planned tours around China, often with all or at least some expenses paid. Earlier accounts of this hospitality have evoked a machine of perfect control, carefully judged to manipulate visitors and rehearsed to ensure flawless performances by Chinese hosts. Using memoirs and Chinese archival documents, the paper discusses the attitude of top-level leaders to such visits, the way in which trips were prepared and planned, and the successes and weaknesses of the system. It argues that the People's Republic of China's hosting programme had a domestic as well as an international purpose. Although foreigners were the official target (and indeed, Maoist China's ‘techniques of hospitality’ garnered some rich international political dividends) the government also used the preparation for and execution of hosting duties to underscore at home the triumph of the revolution.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Royal Historical Society 2015 

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References

1 I would like to thank several people who commented on this paper and helped with materials: especially Thelma Lovell (for extensive and invaluable assistance with Italian and German-language sources, and for insights on the European engagement with Maoist politics and culture), Matthew Johnson, Li Jigao, Jiang Tao, Yao Shuyi, You Lan, Robert Macfarlane and Michael Schoenhals. I wish to thank also the audience of the Royal Historical Society for their constructive and stimulating comments when this lecture was delivered on 10 May 2014. I am especially grateful for a Philip Leverhulme Prize which enabled me to visit China and obtain materials for this paper which are unavailable in the UK.

2 See, for example, Vivian Wu and Adam Chen, ‘Beijing in 45b Yuan Global Media Drive’, South China Morning Post, 13 Jan. 2009, at http://www.scmp.com/article/666847/beijing-45b-yuan-global-media-drive (accessed 12 Jan. 2015). For a discussion of China's quest for soft power in the early twenty-first century, see Kurlantzick, Joshua, Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power is Transforming the World (New Haven, 2007)Google Scholar.

3 ‘Chasing the Chinese Dream’, Economist, 4 May 2013, at http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21577063-chinas-new-leader-has-been-quick-consolidate-his-power-what-does-he-now-want-his (accessed 12 Jan. 2015).

4 For twentieth-century China's preoccupation with international ‘face’ as represented by sporting achievements, see Brownell, Susan, Training the Body for China: Sports in the Moral Order of the People's Republic (Chicago, 1995)Google Scholar; Guoqi, Xu, Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895–2008 (Cambridge, MA, 2008)Google Scholar. For an exploration of the literary dimensions of this search for global prestige, see Lovell, Julia, The Politics of Cultural Capital: China's Quest for a Nobel Prize in Literature (Hawai’i, 2006)Google Scholar.

5 For an informative introduction to this context, see Mao's Little Red Book: A Global History, ed. Alexander Cook (Cambridge, 2014).

6 A sampling of issues of Peking Review from the mid-1960s indicates the international flavour of the enthusiasm for Maoist China and the Cultural Revolution. For more balanced assessments, see for example: Kühn, Andreas, Stalins Enkel, Maos Söhne: Die Lebenswelt der K-Gruppen in der Bundesrepublik der 70er Jahre (Frankfurt, 2005)Google Scholar; Gehrig, Sebastian, ‘(Re-) Configuring Mao. Trajectories of a Culturo-Political Trend in West Germany’, Transcultural Studies, 2 (2011), 189231Google Scholar; Die Kulturrevolution als Vorbild: Maoismen im Deutschsprachigem Raum, ed. Gehrig, Sebastian, Mittler, Barbara and Wemheuer, Felix (Frankfurt, 2008)Google Scholar; Koenen, Gerd, Das Rote Jahrzehnt: Unsere Kleine Deutsche Kulturrevolution 1967–1977 (Cologne, 2001)Google Scholar; Bourseiller, Christophe, Les Maoïstes: la folle histoire des Gardes Rouges Français (Paris, 1996)Google Scholar; Wolin, Richard, The Wind from the East: French Intellectuals, the Cultural Revolution and the Legacy of the 1960s (Princeton, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Niccolai, Roberto, Quando la Cina era vicina: la rivoluzione culturale e la sinistra extraparlamentare italiana negli anni ′60 e ′70 (Pistoia, 1998)Google Scholar.

7 Maclaine, Shirley, You Can Get There From Here (New York, 1975)Google Scholar.

8 Lisa Foa, ‘Perché fummo maoisti: la Cina è un giallo’, Limes (1995), 237–8. Jon Rognlien, the scholar of Norwegian Maoism, confirms this view: interview by author, Skype (Cambridge and Copenhagen), 3 Feb. 2014. For an almost exclusively light-hearted take on the engagement with Maoism by French youth of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which again emphasises the playful, imagined nature of this enthusiasm, see Miller, Gerard, Minoritaire (Paris, 2001), 76123Google Scholar. He writes, for example: ‘It's impossible to understand the passionate interest in China that thousands of French teenagers of my generation felt if you imagine that we were in love with the idea of the iron fist. Quite the contrary: what dazzled us about Mao was his spirit of mischief, his insubordination. . .To me, Mao's China at the end of the 1960s was much more “olé-olé” [than the doctrines of the Trotskyites]. . .[D]uring these years there was frankly nothing better to do in France than to be enraged; and nothing better for the enraged than to be Maoist’ (79, 80, 97).

9 Wolin, The Wind from the East, 3.

10 Over the past two decades, a plethora of memoirs of Mao-era China published in English, often focused on the political and xenophobic extremism of the Cultural Revolution, has powerfully influenced non-specialist understandings of this period of history: the best known and most successful has probably been Jung Chang's Wild Swans (1991).

11 Consider, for example, the rich secondary literature on the engagement with Maoist politics and culture within individual countries, particularly India, Nepal, Peru and France: Banerjee, Sumanta, In the Wake of Naxalbari: A History of the Naxalites Movement (Calcutta, 1980)Google Scholar, and India's Simmering Revolution (New Delhi, 1984); Adhikari, Aditya, The Bullet and the Ballox Box: The Story of Nepal's Maoist Revolution (London, 2014)Google Scholar; The Shining Path of Peru, ed. David Scott Palmer (1992); Wolin, The Wind from the East; and Davis, Belden, ‘French Maoism’, in The 60s without Apology, ed. Syres, Sohnyaet al. (Minneapolis, 1984), 148–77Google Scholar.

12 Paul Hollander, Political Pilgrims: Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China and Cuba 1928--1978 (Oxford, 1981). As another example, consider Tom Buchanan's thorough but unilateral account of the links between China and British leftists, in East Wind: China and the British Left, 1925–1976 (Oxford, 2012), and a review by Qiang Zhai (a prominent archival historian of Chinese foreign relations during the Cold War) expressing reservations about the one-sided nature of Buchanan's treatment: ‘Buchanan's treatment would have been fuller if it had incorporated some coverage of Chinese reception and manipulation of the British Left. Buchanan would have presented his readers with an international history if he had examined how the Chinese, both the Nationalists and Communists, used foreigners, including the British Left, to “sell” their images and win international endorsement abroad.’ Available at: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=36957 (accessed 12 Jan. 2015).

13 See, for example, Archie Brown, The Rise and Fall of Communism (2010); Robert Service, Comrades: Communism, a World History (2008); David Priestland, The Red Flag: Communism and the Making of the Modern World (2010). Of these three general histories (all of which are sound and informative), Priestland's book is probably the most expansive in perspective.

14 See Cheng, Yinghong, ‘Beyond Moscow-Centric Interpretation: An Examination of the China Connection in Eastern Europe and North Vietnam during the Era of De-Stalinization’, Journal of World History, 15.4 (Dec. 2004), 487518CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For the early findings of an exciting forthcoming book on Soviet and Chinese competition for influence in the Third World, see Friedman, Jeremy, ‘Soviet Policy in the Developing World and the Chinese Challenge in the 1960s’, Cold War History, 10.2 (2010), 247–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15 Westad, Odd Arne, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (Cambridge, 2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

16 The Cambridge History of the Cold War, ed. Melvyn P. Leffler and Odd Arne Westad (Cambridge, 2010); Jian, Chen, Mao's China and the Cold War (Chapel Hill, 2001)Google Scholar; Zhai, Qiang, China and the Vietnam Wars, 1950–1975 (Chapel Hill, 2000)Google Scholar.

17 The Cold War in Asia: The Battle for Hearts and Minds, ed. Yangwen, Zheng, Hong, Liu and Szonyi, Michael (Leiden, 2010)Google Scholar.

18 Anne-Marie Brady, The Friend of China: The Myth of Rewi Alley (2002), and Making the Foreign Serve China: Managing Foreigners in the People's Republic (Lanham, 2003).

19 Johnson, Matthew, ‘From Peace to the Panthers: PRC Engagement with Africa–America Transnational Networks, 1949–1979’, Past and Present, 218 supplement 8 (2013), 233–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

20 Cagdas Ungor, ‘Reaching the Distant Comrade: Chinese Communist Propaganda Abroad (1949–1976)’ (Ph.D. dissertation, Binghampton University, 2009).

21 This department's archives have not been declassified, and the prospects for access at present seem non-existent. In 2013, an official history of the organisation was published: Zhongguo gongchandang duiwai jiaowang 90 nian (A history of the Chinese Communist Party's interactions with the outside world over the past ninety years), ed. Wang Jiarui (Beijing, 2013).

22 Michael Croft, Red Carpet to China (1958), 7, 39.

23 Passim, Herbert, China's Cultural Diplomacy (New York, 1962), 1Google Scholar.

24 Loh, Robert, Escape from Red China (New York, 1962), 153Google Scholar.

25 Ibid., 155–6.

26 Ibid., 156.

27 Ibid., 159.

28 Hollander, Political Pilgrims, 361–2.

29 Loh, Escape from Red China, 169.

30 Marcuse, Jacques, The Peking Papers (New York, 1967), 8, 19Google Scholar.

31 Hollander, Political Pilgrims, 363. See also Passim, China's Cultural Diplomacy, 12.

32 Passim, China's Cultural Diplomacy, 8.

33 Ibid., 9, 38.

34 Ibid., 30.

35 Ibid., for example 79, 80–4, 94–5, 107, 109–10.

36 Archive of Chinese Foreign Ministry (ACFM) 117–00110–02 (1950), ‘Zhou Zongli “Zai lingzhi ge jiguan zhaodai waiguo shijie ji waibin jun xu shixian yu waijiaobu lianxi” ji bu gei Zongli de baogao’ (Premier Zhou once more orders every organisation to contact the Foreign Ministry before receiving foreign diplomats or guests, and a report made to the premier).

37 Shanghai Municipal Archive (SMA) A-42–1–20 (1954), ‘ZhongGong Shanghaishi zhonggongye weiyuanhui guanyu jiedai waibin gongzuo yijian’ (Opinions on the reception of foreign guests, by the Heavy Industry Committee of the Shanghai Municipal Branch of the CCP).

38 Beijing Municipal Archive (BMA) 100–001–00465 (1958), ‘Jiedai waibin de zongjie, jiedai Sukeji gongzuozhe daibiaotuan, qingnian daibiaotuan, qingzhu SuGong qingtuan jianguo 40 zhounian huodong, wei zai jing geguo liuxuesheng juban lianhuanhui de jihua, zongjie, jianghua deng’ (Summary of reception of foreign guests: plans, summaries and talks for receiving the Youth Delegation of Soviet Technology Workers, the Youth Delegation, for congratulating the CPSU Youth League on its 40th anniversary and for parties for foreign students in Beijing).

39 BMA 088–001–00160 (4 Sept. 1964), ‘Shishe youguan jiedai waibin gongzuo de wenjian’ (Documents on the reception of foreign guests).

40 SMA A-47–2–10–37 (1953), ‘ZhongGong Shanghaishi wei guanyu waibin fang Hua canguan jiedai gongzuo de tongzhi’ (Notice from the Shanghai Municipal Branch of the CCP about the reception of foreign guests visiting China).

41 SMA A-47–1–154 (1) (1953), ‘Er ge yue lai Shanghai waibin zhaodai gongzuo de zongjie baogao: juemi’ (Top secret: summary report on reception of foreign guests in Shanghai over the past two months).

42 BMA 102–001–00190 (1961), ‘Zhongdian waibin zai jing canguan’ (Visits of VIP foreign guests to the capital).

43 See ibid. and SMA A-42–1–20.

44 SMA A-47–1–154 (1).

45 SMA A-42–1–20.

46 SMA A-47–1–154 (1).

48 SMA A-72–2–4 (9 Sept. 1958), ‘Shanghai xian jiedai guobin zhihuibu guanyu yi Jin Richeng shouxiang wei shou de Chaoxian zhengfu daibiaotuan fang Hu qijian jiedai gongzuo zongjie baogao’ (Report by the Shanghai county headquarters for receiving state guests, on the work done to receive the government delegation from North Korea led by Prime Minister Kim Il-sung while visiting Shanghai).

49 SMA A-47–1–154 (1).

50 ACFM 117–00742–01 (1960), ‘1960 nian Zhongguo guoqing, zhongyang guanyu jiedai de zhishi, zhuwai shiguan, youguan difang waishichu guanyu guoqing gongzuo de qingshi ji laiwang wendian’ (Central Committee Directives and telegrams on instructions for the reception of foreign guests, embassies abroad and local foreign affairs departments for National Day 1960).

52 Brady, Making the Foreign Serve China, 117.

53 See, for example, SMA A-72–1–24 (1959), ‘ZhongGong Shanghai shiwei nongcun gongzuo weiyuanhui, Shanghaishi renmin weiyuanhui nongcun gongzuo weiyuanhui 1959 nian jiaoqu renmin gongshi jiben qingkuang ji renmin gongshe gaikuang he chuli dui Maqiao renmin gongshehua de fanying’ (The basic situation and general survey of People's Communes in the suburbs, and a summary of responses to Maqiao People's Commune, from 1959, by the rural work committee of the CCP Shanghai municipal committee and the rural work committee of the Shanghai municipal people's committee); SMA A-72–2–3 (1959), ‘ZhongGong Shanghaishi nongchang gongzuo weiyuanhui, Shanghaishi renmin weiyuanhui nongcun gongzuo weiyuanhui guanyu waibin canguan qingkuang (The CCP Municipal Shanghai farm work committee and the rural work committee of the Shanghai municipal people's committee report on the visits of foreign guests).

54 SMA A-47–1–154 (1). See also SMA A-72–2–3.

55 For more details, see Taylor, Jay, The Generalissimo (Cambridge, MA, 2009), 96, 122, 135Google Scholar; Epstein, Israel, Woman in World History: Soong Ching Ling (Beijing, 1993)Google Scholar; Guanren, Chen, Song Qingling dazhuan (Biography of Song Qingling) (Beijing, 2003)Google Scholar.

56 For more detail, see Thomas, S. Bernard, Season of High Adventure: Edgar Snow in China (Berkeley, 1996), 131Google Scholar; Hamilton, John Maxwell, Edgar Snow: A Biography (Bloomington, 1988), 67–9Google Scholar.

57 Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Mao: The Unknown Story (2005), 199.

58 Edgar Snow, Red Star over China (1937). See Thomas, Season of High Adventure, 169–89; Hamilton, Edgar Snow, 84–96; and Farnsworth, Robert M., From Vagabond to Journalist: Edgar Snow in Asia, 1928–1941 (Missouri, 1996), 310–17Google Scholar, for details about the book's reception. Thomas, Season of High Adventure, 165, has details of CCP editing of the book.

59 For two recent accounts of the famine based on extensive archival research, see Frank Dikötter, Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Greatest Catastrophe (2010), and Yang Jisheng, Tombstone: The Untold Story of Mao's Great Famine, trans. Guo Jian and Stacy Mosher (2012).

60 Edgar Snow, The Other Side of the River: Red China Today (1963), 21–2.

61 Ibid., 619, 172.

62 BMA 102–001–00118 (1960), ‘Waijiaobu jiedai de Minzhu Deguo zhengfu daibiaotuan, Chaoxian zhengfu jingji daibiaotuan, Gangguo dangzheng daibiaotuan, Aerbaniya Zhongguo youhao xiehui daibiaotuan, Yingguo Menggemali yuanshuai, Yingguo zuojia Sinuo zaijing canguan huodong (The Foreign Ministry reception of a delegation from the German Democratic Republic, of an economic delegation from the government of North Korea, of a delegation from the Congolese party and government administration, of a delegation from the Albania–China Friendship Association, and on the activities of the English Field-Marshal Montgomery and the English [sic] writer Snow while visiting Beijing).

63 Brady, Making the Foreign Serve China, 121–2.

64 See, for example, ACFM 116–00189–06(1) (10 July 1960), ‘Meiguo zuojia Sinuo qingkuang fanying’ (Reports on the situation of the American writer Snow); ACFM 116–00265–03(1) (2 Sept. – 24 Nov. 1960), ‘Guanyu Meiguo zuojia Sinuo de qingkuang’ (Concerning the situation of the American writer Snow).

65 Bill Jenner, interview by author, Cambridge, 29 Nov. 2013.

66 Jan Myrdal, Rapport fran Kinesisk By (Report from a Chinese Village) (Stockholm, 1963).

67 See discussion in Perry Johansson, ‘Mao and the Swedish United Front against USA’, in The Cold War in Asia, ed. Zheng Yangwen et al., 217–40.

68 For a discussion of the role played by the CCP in brokering the alliance between Sihanouk and the Khmer Rouge, see for example Philip Short, Pol Pot: The History of a Nightmare (2005). On the economic relations between mainland China and Democratic Kampuchea, see Mertha, Andrew, Brothers in Arms: Chinese Aid to the Khmer Rouge, 1975–1979 (Ithaca, 2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Kiernan, Ben, The Pol Pot Regime: Race, Power and Genocide in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, 1975–79 (New Haven, 2008)Google Scholar.

69 BMA 102–001–00190 (1961), ‘Zhongdian waibin zaijing canguan’ (The visits of VIP foreign guests to Beijing). For a discussion of the Indonesian coup of Sept. 1965 and the anti-communist, anti-Chinese purge that followed it, see Roosa, John, Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement and Suharto's Coup d’État in Indonesia (Madison, 2006)Google Scholar.

70 ACFM 113–00180–01 (8 Dec. 1953), ‘Guanyu 1950–1953 nian zibenzhuyi tixi guojia laiHua waibin fanying de zonghe baogao ji qingkuang jibiao’ (A summarising report on the responses of foreign guests visiting China from capitalist countries between 1950 and 1953); see also ACFM 117–00473–07 (1 Sept. 1955), ‘Guanyu waibin yingsong, yanhui, songli ji jiaotong gongju zanxing guiding’ (On provisional regulations for the reception and seeing off, banqueting and gifting of foreign guests, and for their means of transport).

71 ACFM 113–00180–01.

72 ACFM 117–00110–07 (1) (2 Jan. 1951), ‘Duiwai jiaoji huodong zhong fasheng de wenti ji “dui waibin jiaoji xuzhi”’ (Problems that have occurred in contact with foreigners and ‘Essential information for contact with foreign guests’).

73 ACFM 117–00102–01 (19 Sept. 1951), ‘Guoqingjie teyao waibin zhaodai weiyuanhui gongzuo zongjie’ (Summary of work for committee in charge of receiving specially invited foreign guests).

74 BMA 088–001–00404 (2 July – 26 Dec. 1963), ‘Zongshe, shishe guanyu waibin canguan de qingkuang huibao deng’ (Reports by the main and municipal offices on visits by foreign guests).

75 ACFM 117–00189–01 (20 May 1952), ‘Zhongyang guanyu Wuyijie waibin jiedai de zhishi ji gedi jihua he youguan qingkuang deng’ (Central directives on the reception of foreign guests during Labour Day and relevant matters concerning the plans for all localities).

76 Matthew Rothwell, for example, describes how, in later memoirs and interviews, several Latin American visitors of the 1950s and 1960s felt that it was possible to escape their hosts and have unscripted encounters in Chinese cities. Personal communication and Transpacific Revolutionaries: The Chinese Revolution in Latin America (Abingdon, 2013).

77 ACFM 117–01299–01 (12 May 1961), ‘Guanyu xiang qunzhong jinxing zhengque dui hei Feizhou waibin de jiaoyu tongzhi’ (Notice about correctly educating the masses about receiving black African foreign guests).

78 SMA B123–6–163 (1964), ‘1964 nian guowuyuan, Shanghaishi renwei waijingmaoban, shiwei waishi xiaozu ji Shanghaishi diyi shangyeju guanyu waishi gongzuo you guan wenjian’ (1964 documents relevant to foreign affairs work from the State Council, the Shanghai People's Committee Foreign Trade Office, the Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee of the Municipal Party Committee and Number One Municipal Trade Bureau).

79 SMA A-72–2–4.

80 SMA A-72–2–3.

81 SMA A-47–1–154 (1).

82 793.00/7–752, ‘Telegram: the Ambassador in India (Bowles) to the Department of State’, 7 July 1952, Document 36, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952–1954, Volume xiv, Part 1, China and Japan, at https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1952--54v14p1/d36 (accessed 12 Jan. 2015).

83 Frank Tuohy, ‘From a China Diary’, Encounter (Dec. 1966), 8–9.

84 For indications of the international influence of Snow's writing, see the interview cited above with Bill Jenner and interview with Mark Selden, 29 May 2013; Niccolai, Quando la Cina era vicina; Kühn, Stalins Enkel, Maos Söhne; Thomas, Season of High Adventure; Chin, C. C. and Hack, Karl, eds., Dialogues with Chin Peng: New Light on the Malayan Communist Party (Singapore, 2005)Google Scholar.

85 Consider, for example, Selden, Mark, The Yanan Way in Revolutionary China (Cambridge, MA, 1971)Google Scholar; Mirsky, Jonathan, ‘China after Nixon’, in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 402 (July 1972), 8396CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars, China! Inside the People's Republic (New York, 1972); Friedman, Edward, ‘The Innovator’, in Mao Tse-tung in the Scales of History, ed. Wilson, Dick (Cambridge, 1977), 300–21Google Scholar. Friedman, Mirsky and Selden all later underwent significant, even dramatic, changes in their assessment of Mao-era China (in particular, of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution) when access to China increased somewhat after Mao's death. Examples of their later, far more critical, judgements can be found in Jonathan Mirsky's post-Mao journalism for publications including the Times, the Spectator, the New York Review of Books and in Friedman, Edward, Pickowicz, Paul and Selden, Mark, Chinese Village, Socialist State (New Haven, 1991)Google Scholar.

86 SMA A-47–1–154 (1).

87 BMA 101–001–00632 (13 Nov. 1957), ‘Benhui, benbu youguan jiedai chuxi gonghui “Bada”, “Wuyi” waibin ji riben Chuanqishi yihui, Riben gonghui liang daibiaotuan deng guoji gongzuo de jihua, zongjie, huanyingci, hepian mingdan deng youguan wenjian’ (Relevant documents, including plans, summaries, welcome speeches, name lists for greetings cards, for international work receiving foreign guests and Kawasaki municipal parliament and Japanese trade union delegations for the Eighth Congress and Labour Day). See also SMA A-72–2–4, describing mass mobilisation in advance of Kim Il-sung's visit.

88 See Chen, Mao's China and the Cold War for a discussion of the ways in which Mao used foreign policy to achieve domestic objectives, especially mass mobilisation.

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