In 1960, as part of the early People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) cultural diplomacy, a troupe of almost one hundred Chinese performers and officials visited Canada, where they were widely identified as the “Peking Opera.” This was the high Cold War, ten years before Canada would recognize the PRC. Internal government documents show that granting permission for the opera visit constituted a considerable shift in Canadian policy, allowing a large-scale exchange with Communist China at a time when it was not possible for such a tour to visit the United States. For China, visits of performing arts groups were a major part of international diplomacy. For Canadian impresarios, hosting the Peking Opera was a way of legitimizing their festivals and theatres internationally. Among Chinese Canadian communities, reactions to the visit showed that the pendulum had begun to swing away from Taipei and toward Beijing, and for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police the tour members were suspicious figures to be put under close surveillance as they interacted with Canadians. Glimpsed from these varying perspectives, the tour shows how the cultural isolation of the PRC was coming to an end as early as 1960, even in North America, and prefigures China’s present soft power push.

You do not currently have access to this content.