California State University-Fullerton, 1968 – 1971.
- I spent a year teaching in a remote area in Western China, and had a lot of time to talk with different people in the party and at the university level. There were mixed signals from within the party, and a great deal of discussion about the question of reform...
Love for China
John Marienthal is a teacher and a member of the Board of the Western Region of the US-China Peoples Friendship Association. He first traveled to China in 1974, and taught in China in 1986 and 1987. In 1989 he was on his fifth trip to China.
From John Marienthal US-China Peoples Friendship Association South Bay Chapter, Friday, April 4, 2014.
A young woman reporter at a recent National Convention asked how I became interested in China. Two things about China captured my interest. I had recently finished a degree in geography during which. China, being the biggest developing country in the world, was a major topic. How developing countries were to solve their problems was of interest to me.
Additionally, after spending a year and a half in the Air Force in the Philippines (’64-’66), I became interested in the Vietnam anti-war movement. While in the Philippines, I had observed SEA Countries and China first hand, and I knew none of these countries was strong enough to storm the beaches of Santa Monica and Los Angeles Calif. I knew we were wrong to be in Vietnam.
I did some reading, and visited China Books and Periodicals. (Later, in 1975 I worked for China Books) I was intrigued that while China was a Socialist country, some of their ideas might benefit the U.S. So, when in Sept of 1971, a friend approached me about forming a China Peoples Friendship Assn, I was only too willing.
In December of 1971, we had a small meeting of local activists. (We were lucky to have Grace Granich and Manny Granich who had just returned from a visit to China in 1970. They had also been involved in running an anti-Japanese newspaper in Shanghai from 1935-1937. They left just before the Japanese occupied the International Settlement. Just before the Japanese warrant for their arrest.) We discussed reasons we should form a group to build friendship with China. We decided we wanted to have a public program before Nixon went to China. Thus began the Southbay Chapter, one of the first five in the country.
The SF chapter, which was the first chapter in America, started about the same time. In 1972 a chapter was started in Palo Alto. Within a year, Jack Edelman and others started a chapter in Marin County (North Bay).In 1974 we formed a chapter in Santa Cruz.
Chapters began popping up all over California and the west. There was a professor and some interested students in Fresno—a chapter was born. There were some people who had been involved in United Nations Assn. work in Sacramento—a chapter was born. Groups formed in Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Orange County, West Los Angeles, Long Beach, and San Diego.In 1972 Frank Pestana and others formed a regional network. From the west coast, USCPFA blossomed all over. Koji Ariyoshi and family helped form a Hawaiian chapter. Chapters were formed in the Midwest and the East coast.
In those days, chapters showed Chinese films and foreign documentaries (i.e. Dr. Joshua Horn film) to add to the small number of speakers we could find. The number of people who had been to China was still very small. In 1973 that changed. Youxie offered each of the three areas of our national organization a six person leadership tour to China. That not only helped organize our group into three areas (west, east, Midwest) but was the beginning of many trips to China.
In 1974 Youxie offered a limited number of visas to tour groups. Potential travelers underwent interviews and had to promise to do outreach programs upon their return. As the visas were limited, couples were not allowed. As part of the newly-formed Western region, I went with this first commercial group of 30 from Hong Kong to Beijing and back.
As part of my outreach, In 1975 I moved to Chicago and worked for China Books, I became the Vice President of the Chicago chapter, and served on the Midwest region steering committee. In 1981 I returned to S.F., and returned to S.J. in 1984. I married Dianne Schloeder who became the San Jose chapter president. Dianne, Ann and Andie Sermersheim, and I did the newsletter together for many years. I also was on the Western Region board.
In 1986 I went to teach in Shihezi, Xinjiang for a year. After a year’s hiatus, I returned to live and work in Shanghai for six years. In 2004 I returned to America and again became active in the Western region board. Still, China tugged for me to return. I continued to visit almost every year, teaching English wherever I found myself. In 2012 I worked as a volunteer in Yunnan.
Now I’m back in Shanghai volunteering to do teacher training in the Putuo district in Shanghai. Since the mid-60’s, when I became curious about this giant country, I’ve been lucky enough to visit every province except Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Maybe I’ll get there this year.
John Marienthal, San Jose appeared on an early '90s mailing list of activists in the Bay Area, sent to Freedom Road Socialist Organization member Mike Conan. Several of those listed were known Freedom Road Socialist Organization or Socialist Organizing Network members .
Freedom Road Socialist Organization
John Marienthal is a member of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.