Political Pathways: China, Pakistan, and Mao’s ‘Little Red Book’

by Brooke Kennedy

Update: Pirzada’s signed edition of the ‘Little Red Book’ sold for $250,000.

When Sharifuddin Pirzada first arrived in Beijing, China on October 22, 1966, he had made history. By invitation of the Chinese government, the newly elected Foreign Minister of Pakistan became the first statesman to make an official visit after the Cultural Revolution began that year. Prior to this visit, China had only just begun laying the groundwork for a relationship with Pakistan, but had solidified their allyship during the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war. China provided its full support, going so far as to provide emergency military supplies, something the United States had failed to do.1

In the Peking Review’s report on the meeting, “Foreign Minister Pirzada said that the friendship between Pakistan and China was based on the genuine and fundamental interests of the two countries and the two peoples. He pointed out that the policies of both countries provided an excellent basis for strengthening this friendship. Sino-Pakistan friendship and cooperation, he added, was a demand of our times and any attempt to interfere with it would never succeed. The Pakistan Foreign Minister thanked the Chinese Government and people for their support to the Kashmiri people’s just struggle.”

Rafat Pirzada, son of Sharifuddin Pirzada, discussed the monumental visit with RR Auction, “the Chinese leadership were not interfacing a lot with any foreign countries at that time. It was now open to not being completely in the Soviet camp and actually open to having dialogue with the United States.”

In his honor, the foreign minister was greeted with a banquet of delectable courses. Among the dinner guests were Vice Premier Chou En-lai, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chen Yi and his wife Zhang Qian, and President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Guo Moruo.

“At the conclusion of the dinner, Premier Chou En-lai turned to my father and said, ‘well I hope that Madam and you are not too tired,’” said Rafat. “‘Now Chairman Mao would like to meet you.’”

It would be during this meeting that Foreign Minister Pirzada’s wife would present Mao with a copy of his book of quotations (also known as the ‘Little Red Book’) for him to sign – a moment perfectly captured on camera.

Photograph of Chairman Mao signing the Little Red Book for Foreign Minister Pirzada’s wife.
Photograph of Chairman Mao signing the Little Red Book for Foreign Minister Pirzada’s wife.

“I can just imagine the excitement she and my father must be having for that… and the attendants in the back…were looking and smiling because it was very rare for Mao to show that sort of affection.”

Sharifuddin’s visit opened up many doors, far and wide. As Pakistan cultivated its relations with China, a new road was paved for the United States and China to re-establish their ties. With Pakistan’s involvement, the two countries had a new bridge of communication, and the United States would be able to successfully carry out Henry Kissinger’s secret 1971 visit to Beijing. This was followed up by President Richard Nixon’s official trip to China in 1972, which later led to the reformation of diplomatic relations after more than 20 years.2

“The red book signed by Mao…[is] a testament…that this is where it all started from,” said Rafat, reflecting on his father’s historic visit. “Later on, Kissinger and everyone else gets the credit but it all started right there in November 1966 in Beijing.”

The Little Red Book came about during the build up to the Cultural Revolution. Mao had become increasingly dissatisfied with the Chinese Communist Party, believing their approach had become too bureaucratic and uncommitted to maintaining party values. Sensing that his influence among his comrades was waning, Mao set out on a campaign for a new revolutionary movement and to regain control over the Communist party. This included having his close ally and head of the People’s Liberation Army, Lin Biao, compile a book of hundreds of Mao’s quotations, which became the Little Red Book.3 The book was published in 1964, and each of its quotations was organized by topic; the Communist Party, class and class struggle, socialism and communism, war and peace, imperialism, the People’s Army, politics, patriotism, and culture.

Signed first English edition of Quotations from Chairman Mao bound in red vinyl covers. The book is signed by Mao next to his frontispiece portrait.
Signed first English edition of Quotations from Chairman Mao bound in red vinyl covers. The book is signed by Mao next to his frontispiece portrait.

A piece of history that signifies a new step in China’s geopolitical relations, Sharifuddin’s copy of the Little Red Book will soon be going to the auction block in RR Auction’s Remarkable Rarities event. Mao’s signature in any form is an absolute rarity, let alone in any copies of his historic publication. Much of the autograph material that is known to exist often comes from foreign dignitaries. Prior to this, RR Auction had only sold two items featuring the Chinese leader’s elusive signature; an autograph book featuring Mao with those of other world leaders for $192,659 and a menu also signed by Chou En-lai and several Chinese statesmen for $275,000. Sold in 2019, the autograph book originates from a staff member of the world’s first female prime minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike. A more recent sale, the menu details the banquet courses prepared for Prime Minister of Pakistan Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. Unsigned editions of the pocket-sized book have also gone under the hammer, once in July 2023 for $10,730 and again in September for $7,500.


  1. Masood Khalid, “Pakistan-China Relations in a Changing Geopolitical Environment,” Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, published Nov. 30, 2021, https://www.isas.nus.edu.sg/papers/pakistan-china-relations-in-a-changing-geopolitical-environment/. ↩︎
  2. “The Nixon Visit,” American Experience, PBS, accessed Jan. 31, 2024, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/china-visit/. ↩︎
  3. Stefanie Lamb, “Introduction to the Cultural Revolution,” Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education, Stanford University, published Dec. 2005, https://spice.fsi.stanford.edu/docs/introduction_to_the_cultural_revolution. ↩︎

Mao Zedong Copy of Quotations from Chairman Mao – Autographed for the Wife of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, with Photo Proof

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