Sidney Rittenberg was a confidant of Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, Premier Zhou Enlai and much of the Chinese communist leadership even before they took power in the late 1940s.
Born into a middle-class Jewish family in Charleston, S.C., he was assigned by the U.S. Army to China in World War II.
At the end of the war, he opted to stay behind to assist with reconstruction. He was one of only two Americans to become a member of the Chinese Communist Party and became a trusted member of its leadership.
Then, just as Mao was on the verge of taking power, Joseph Stalin accused him of being an American spy and he was put into solitary confinement. When Stalin died, Rittenberg was released and rehabilitated.
He then served in important roles in the government until the Cultural Revolution, during which he first achieved increased prominence, and then found himself again imprisoned when the political winds shifted. Rittenberg spent a total of 16 years in solitary confinement.
All in all, he was in China from 1944 to 1979, when he returned to the U.S.
Rittenberg has been the subject of a documentary movie, “The Revolutionary,” has been a featured guest on several episodes of “60 Minutes” and has written several books about his experiences.
Rittenberg was our guest last year.
We discuss his fascinating life story and update last year’s broadcast with his views on China relations in the President Donald Trump area, prospects for solving the North Korean impasse and other matters that have evolved in the year since he last visited the Think Tank.