“No Ordinary Friendship”: China’s Red Evangelism and Hu Nim’s Becoming Maoist, 1949-1977

Matthew Galway

University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia,

In the global 1960s, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) embarked on a program of “Red Evangelism” whereby it stressed to Global South countries the worldwide suitability of its revolutionary experience. One who was especially receptive to exported Maoism, and who viewed China as a model revolutionary country, was CPK Central Committee Hu Nim (aka. Phoas). He engaged with Maoist texts as a student in Paris to frame radical solution to socioeconomic inequality in Cambodia. This paper tracks his involvement in radical student circles and his membership in the pro-China Khmer-Chinese Friendship Association. As a networked individual in a situated thinking responding to crises, Hu Nim experienced globalization/capitalism as an ever-present alien hegemony. But as a close textual exegesis of Nim’s writings and an analysis of his activist-politician career reveal, his reception of Maoism was dialectical in nature. Nim showed a commitment to alter his nation’s course without the total erasure of its political system, that is, until harsh government repression forced him to take a more radical turn. Thus contrary to claims that he and other Paris-educated Cambodian leftists were figureheads, Nim’s reception of Maoism was central to Cambodian Maoism and key to understanding how revolutionary ideas travel across cultures.



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