Perlmutter points out the Lucepress's fealty to a "cultural China"--the ancient and majestic society with its artistic, literary, and philosophical artifacts--and the publisher's dogged attempt to exalt that national abstraction even as Time constructed and excoriated a post-1949 "Red China" in its pages. The book brilliantly examines the magazine's tribulations in maintaining such a double stance and provides a fascinating account of the dilemma Luce and his editors faced, and the solution they developed, when China severely restricted access for Western journalists after 1949. As the only available images of China were propaganda pieces dispensed by the Communist Party's Eastfoto news service, Time found a solution in what Perlmutter calls "contrarian captioning," whereby, for example, a picture of a smiling Mae Zedong would bear the caption "pudgy dictator" (p. 75). Contrarian captioning became a mainstay for the Lucepress as it sought simultaneously to keep China in view and to malign the usurper it saw in the Communist Party.
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