In Europe there have appeared several important collections on Marxist literary theory, such as Francis Mulhern’s Contemporary Marxist Literary Criticism (1992) and Terry Eagleton and Drew Milne’s Marxist Literary Theory: A Reader (1996). However, Chinese voices are not included at all in these volumes. Maybe this lacuna results from a lack of awareness of Chinese Marxist aesthetics on the part of most European literary historians and critics. In this article, we seek to discuss the circumstances of European scholars’ contacts with Chinese Marxist aesthetics, mainly in the 1960s and 1970s. Starting from the variation theory perspective proposed by Shunqing Cao we will discuss how European scholars read and misread what they perceived as the meaning and universal applicability of what was happening in China at the time. The discussion is divided into three parts: the utopian interpretation of the Chinese theory of revolution in France, the critical reception by Eastern European Marxists, and the sympathetic interpretation by sinologists such as the Dutch diplomat and literary scholar Douwe Fokkema.