April 21, 2005
Great Decisions Series to Feature May 3 Lecture,
While serving in the U.S. Army, Sidney Rittenberg developed a love for China that has withstood war, accusations of being an American spy, and spending 16 years in solitary confinement.
Rittenberg, a visiting professor of Chinese Studies at Pacific Lutheran University, will present the fifth and final lecture of Whitworth's 48th annual Great Decisions Lecture Series. His lecture, "China: From Mao to the 21st Century - A Future Envisioned," will take place Tuesday, May 3, at 7:30 p.m. in the Robinson Teaching Theatre, Weyerhaeuser Hall at Whitworth College. Admission is free. For more information, please call (509) 777-3270.
Rittenberg grew up in South Carolina and studied philosophy at Porter Military Academy at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill. He also studied Chinese at the Army Far Eastern Language and Area School at Stanford University.
While attending school at Chapel Hill, Rittenberg became a member of the Communist Party, U.S.A., and spent time advocating labor and civil rights. In 1942, he left the Communist Party and joined the U.S. Army.
The army sent him to China during World War II to work as a Chinese-language expert. Later, he joined the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Program in China as a famine-relief observer.
He then became an interpreter for the U.S. Army and the Nationalist and Communist parties in one of the truce teams set up by President Truman to conciliate in the Chinese Civil War. Rittenberg's work as an interpreter helped develop his relationship with the Chinese and also allowed him to meet many influential Chinese communist leaders, including Mao Zedong, the deposed emperor of the Ching Dynasty, Pu Yi, Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping.
In 1946, China's Communist leadership invited Rittenberg to remain in the country to help set up an English language program. His work ended in 1949 when Soviet leader Joseph Stalin accused him of being a spy for the United States, forcing the Chinese government to send him to solitary confinement. Rittenberg was released upon Stalin's death in 1955.
Beginning in 1968, Rittenberg spent another 10 years in prison for his actions and criticisms against the Chinese dictatorship and bureaucracy during the Cultural Revolution. Rittenberg refused to become embittered by his experiences in prison and was declared a true friend of China after he was freed from prison a second time, in 1977. He was the only American citizen accepted into the Chinese Communist Party until the Cultural Revolution.
After leaving China in 1977, Rittenberg settled in the United States with his wife and four children and taught as a professor of history at the University of North Carolina. He was a member of the faculty at the New School for Social Research in New York City in 1982 and 1983. In January 1994, Rittenberg accepted a chair as the first Frey Foundation Distinguished Professor of History at his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he later became the Edward M. Bernstein Professor of History.
Rittenberg, with Amanda Bennett of The Wall Street Journal, is the author of The Man Who Stayed Behind (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1993), about his years in China, and he currently serves as visiting professor of Chinese Studies at Pacific Lutheran University, in Tacoma. In 2003, the university presented Rittenberg with the first Peace Builder Award, from PLU's Wang Center for International Program, for his dedication to fostering cooperation between China and the U.S.
Along with teaching at Pacific Lutheran University and making frequent trips to China, Rittenberg and his wife, Yulin, operate Rittenberg & Associates, a consulting firm that assists individuals, agencies and businesses who work with Chinese companies and organizations. Some of their best-known clients include the Reverend Billy Graham and Mike Wallace, of the CBS television program "Sixty Minutes."
The annual Great Decisions Lecture Series at Whitworth College features five speakers who address current political, cultural and economic subjects of interest to the international community. Rittenberg's lecture is sponsored by Bank of America and is co-sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Spokane and the International Trade Alliance. The lecture is also funded by the Speaker and Artist series at Whitworth.
Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The college enrolls 2,400 students in more than 50 undergraduate and graduate programs.
Kyle Usrey, dean of the School of Global Commerce and Management, Whitworth College, (509) 777- 4721 or firstname.lastname@example.org.