Chinese President Hu Jintao visited the country’s most prominent Jewish citizen, the journalist Israel Epstein, on the eve of Epstein’s 90th birthday earlier this week.
The president praised Epstein’s “outstanding contributions” to China’s progress and his “sincere affection for China and the Chinese people,” according to a news report by Xinhua News Agency, the state-run news service.
During a career that has spanned more than seven decades, Epstein has both witnessed and shaped the history of his adopted Chinese homeland. He interviewed Mao Zedong in the 1930s, and spent several years in jail during the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s and early 1970s; since the early 1980s, he has served on a top government-advisory body.
During the visit with Hu, the media veteran thanked the Chinese leader and his government for taking good care of the foreigners who call the country home, the Xinhua report said.
Born in Poland in 1915, Epstein arrived in China as a toddler when his father, Lasar Epstein, began a 20-year tenure as the Bund’s representative in Tientsin. During World War II, the elder Epstein coordinated aid distribution to European Jewish refugees in Shanghai, and after the war he immigrated to the United States and joined the staff of the Jewish Labor Committee. Israel Epstein stayed behind to pursue work as a journalist.
In a long and varied career, Epstein worked in China as a correspondent for an English-language Communist party magazine, as well as United Press International and The New York Times. After stints with the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and the Allied Labor News in New York, he returned to China in the early 1950s to found the multi-lingual magazine China Reconstruction, since renamed China Today. He became a Chinese citizen in 1957.
Epstein has published more than a dozen books, including “Woman in World History: Life and Times of Soong Ching Ling (Mme. Sun Yatsen),” “Refuting Western Media About Tibet: Background Facts from History” and an autobiography titled “My China Eye: Memoirs of a Jew and a Journalist,” which will hit American bookshelves this month. At their meeting, Epstein presented Hu with a copy of the book, according to the news agency report.