This is the new Communist drama, and the picture is frequently artless and sterile, without depth, without truth, and without reality.—Walter and Ruth Meserve, 1970
Peking opera now is a mixture of drama, music, dance, acrobatics, poetry, propaganda and revolutionary history, with indefatigable heroes (more adroit than James Bond, and with a purpose he never dreamed of) and fabulously wicked villains—the whole socking out a message of exemplary struggle and courage.—Lois Wheeler Snow, 1972
The study of Asian theatre as an academic field independent of English and Asian Studies arose in the West, particularly the United States, after World War II, in part as a result of the U.S. occupation of Japan and cold war–era funding policies aimed at spreading democracy in Asia. The notable exception was research on theatre in the People's Republic of China (PRC), which was restrained by the McCarthyist Red Scare, which greatly constricted China studies, and the PRC's self-imposed closure to the West, which made field and archival research virtually impossible. However, these conditions changed dramatically in the early and mid-1970s when the combined effect of China's midcourse correction during the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) and Nixon's 1972 trip to China prompted a small boom in the translation, publication, reporting, and research of Chinese plays and performance. At the same time, as the two epigraphs above indicate, this first group of writings on Chinese theatre was made largely problematic by a number of factors: the inherently ideological nature of Chinese theatre during the Cultural Revolution; the diverse ideological, academic, and theatrical background of the authors working on the subject during a similarly volatile era in the West; an overreliance on official Chinese publications (usually as the only source available); and restricted access to China for all but a small number of Westerners. Although insightful and well-researched writings certainly existed, much of this body of work reflects the ideological preoccupations of Euro-American intellectuals in the cold war era. The latter manifested themselves either through oversimplified condemnation of communist theatre as artless propaganda or through radical leftist eulogy of China's supposed success in combining theatre and ideology, making theatre serve the people, and promoting amateur performance to stimulate production.