The Economist has posted an interview with “Mao’s translator,” Sidney Rittenberg (李敦白). Arriving in China in 1944, Rittenberg befriended Mao, Zhou Enlai and other top Communists. During his long involvement with the Chinese Communist Party, Rittenberg was imprisoned twice. The first time in 1949, after being falsely fingered as a “spy” by Joseph Stalin, he spent six years in solitary confinement and the second time in 1968, for ten years when labelled a “May 16th element” (五一六分子).
In spite his long time in prison, Rittenberg still expresses a restrained fondness for Mao, who he describes as the “best listener I’ve ever run into.” Like any reformed communist, Rittenberg is now making big bucks as an advisor for multinationals like Hughes Aircraft and Intel on their China buisness, and he has many interesting observations on China, past, present and future.
The interview runs about 15 minutes and streams a bit slowly, so you may wish to download it directly here.