Philatelic collection transfer

Rare letter from Chairman Mao sells for over 600,000 pounds

Mao's letter bearing his and Zhu De's signatures. (China Daily)
Mao's letter bearing his and Zhu De's signatures. (China Daily)

A rare letter from Chinese leader Mao Zedong written to the leader of Britain's Labour Party appealing for help in fighting the Japanese invaders in 1937 sold at auction for 605,000 pounds, nearly six times more than its estimated price, London-based auctioneers Sotheby's said.

The letter, signed by Mao and Zhu De, one of the founders of the People's Liberation Army, was acquired by an anonymous Chinese buyer.

It was addressed to Major Clement Atlee, leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party at the time, asking for "the support of your Party to any measures of practical assistance to China that may be organized in Great Britain.

"We believe that the British people, when they know the truth about Japanese aggression in China, will rise in support of the Chinese people, will organize practical assistance on their behalf, and will compel their own government to adopt a policy of active resistance to a danger that ultimately threatens them no less than ourselves."

Mao's original Chinese text was translated by James Bertram, a British journalist who had access to Mao in his base in Yan'an, northwest China.

Mao's Chinese signature in Chinese characters appears clearly at the bottom of the letter, and Gabriel Heaton, a Sotheby's specialist in books and manuscripts, said the letter was "an extraordinary early instance of Mao engaging in international diplomacy, and is an exceptionally rare example of Mao's signature."

Betram passed on the letter to Atlee, urging him to keep it "if only as a curiosity."

No record of Atlee's response to the letter has ever been published.

Attlee became UK Prime Minister in 1945 and under his leadership, Britain became the first major western power to recognise the People's Republic of China on January, 1950;Atlee also became the first major western leader to meet Mao in a three-hour discussion over tea in 1954.

Historians also believe Attlee played a major role in persuading US President Harry Truman not to declare all-out war on China during the Korean conflict.

The letter was put up for auction by Atlee's family. (China Daily)

Mao's letter bearing his and Zhu De's signatures.
Mao's letter bearing his and Zhu De's signatures.
Mao Zedong met with Clement Attlee on august 24,1954 in Beijing
Mao Zedong met with Clement Attlee on august 24,1954 in Beijing (right 1) (Here)

Mao's letter to Clement Attlee sells for £600,000

LONDON – In a week that saw Chairman Mao's infamous "Little Red Book" brandished during a Parliamentary debate, a letter from the Chinese leader to then Labour Party leader and later prime minister Clement Attlee reveals an early example of diplomacy between Mao Zedong and Britain as he tried to elicit support against Japan. 

Part of the English Literature, History, Children's Books and Illustrations sale on 15 December, this exceptional historic record is only the second document signed by Mao to appear on the international auction market in recent decades.

One of the first communications between the Communist leader and any Western politician, the letter is dated 1 November 1937 and written from his headquarters in a remote part of northwestern China. After stating Mao's solidarity and goodwill to the British people, the letter calls for urgent practical assistance in the fight against Japanese Imperialism.

The correspondence was facilitated by an intrepid New Zealand-born journalist, James Munro Bertram, who in addition to being acquainted with Attlee, was also granted a long audience with Mao in October 1937. As well as carrying Mao's signature, the letter is also signed by the army general Zhu De (1886-1976), one of the principal founders of the People's Liberation Army. The letter was sent enclosed in a handwritten letter from John Bertram:

"I have the distinction (for what it is worth!) of being the first Englishman to visit the Chinese Communists on their home ground . . . You should keep the enclosed letter, if only as a curiosity. It is probably the first time that the signatures of Mao and Chu have ever been seen in England."

This gesture of goodwill from the guerrilla leader in 1937 may have lived on in Attlee's memory: under his leadership, the United Kingdom became the first Western country to recognise the People's Republic of China in 1950, and Attlee became the first ranking western politician to officially meet Mao. The two men had a three-hour conversation over tea on 24 August 1954, during which perhaps they recalled this extraordinary missive from 17 years earlier. (From sothebys)
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