CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY China Heritage Project, The Australian National University ISSN 1833-8461
Nos. 30/31, June/September 2012


The China Critic - 1937 | China Heritage Quarterly

The China Critic: a Chronology

William Sima
Australian Centre on China in the World

William Sima, whose research into the history and contents of The China Critic led to this combined issue of China Heritage Quarterly, has created a Chronology of the weekly. It follows the progress of The Critic from its first appearance in May 1928 through the highs and lows of the 'Nanjing Decade', and then through its various wartime permutations.

Will's Chronology, which is arranged by year below, accounts for the changing fate, and the friable editorial stance, of The Critic. It also provides numerous links to the articles under discussion allowing for them to be appreciated in an historical context.—The Editor

1928 | 1929 | 1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934 | 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1938 | 1939 | 1940 | 1945


Fig.1 'Visit Progressive Sichuan', an advertisement for steamboat tourism, 11 February

4 February: A Special Number on National Renaissance

This week's special issue contains articles by Richard L. Jen 任玲遜, and Yang Hsin 楊信, and other contributors. The editorial 'National Renaissance' describes this popular political ideal, tracing its development from China's defeat in the Opium War to present-day Japanese hegemony. This writer comments upon the recent use of the term 'rebirth by our own vitality', considering it as being more fitting to Chinese current needs:

Just as the Nanking government was slowly consolidating the country under its control, came the Japanese aggression. This time the slogan of national salvation is not firearms, nor political reforms, nor yet a more thorough understanding of western science and literature, but national renaissance … This sentiment was first expressed in the rather vague term of national renaissance (民族復興), but lately a much more expressive phrase was coined. It is 'rebirth by our own vitality' (自力更生). The will to live is certainly there, and we have not the least doubt that China will soon prove to the world that she is fit to survive.

'Popular Views on the National Renaissance', by Yang Hsin, is a useful source which draws together and comments upon the views of three contemporary intellectuals, in essays published 'some time ago' in the magazine Eastern Miscellany 東方雜誌:

Mr. Quentin Pan (潘光旦) speaks of the hereditary characteristics as the prerequisite of national renaissance, Mr. Chou Cheng-ping (趙正平) discusses the possibility of national renaissance within a short period, and Mr. Charles C. Wu (吳澤霖) treats the question of the conditions of the renaissance.

Yang presents a summary of the views of each of these writers and, towards the end of the article, comments upon the use of the term '自力更新' in recent articles in The China Times 時事新報. The slogan 'self-reliance'自力更生 was taken up by the Communists at their wartime base in Yan'an, and it would become one of the bedrock concepts of the Mao era following the founding of the People's Republic in 1949.

18 February

In his essay 'Scots and English: Contrasting Characteristics' this week, Chung Tso-you 鐘作猷 offers a lengthy account of what he perceives to be the differences between these two different people of Great Britain. Admitting that the popular notion of 'national characteristics' is cloudy by lazy generalization, he depicts Scots, presumably a people with whom Chinese readers of The Critic are not overly familiar, favourably:

It is difficult to diagnose national characteristics, for one's conclusions are only roughly true. They may not fit many individuals of that particular nation and the passage of time may soon belie them… . For my part I find the English very much what the common opinion of the world represents them to be—reserved, aloof and egoistic… . Scotsmen, I found, were rather better than they are usually represented. Without being effusive they are friendly; they are self-confident without being arrogant; they are prudent without being mean; and they are patriotic without being insular.

4 March: A Special Number on Marriage

The China Critic revisits the issue of marriage with a dedicated special issue, with contributions from Emily Han, Yao Xinnong 姚莘農 and Wen Yuanning 溫源寧.

Fig.2 A Chinese-language advertisement for Tiger Balm, 11 March

6 May: A Special Coronation Number

Celebrating the coronation of George VI, this issue of The China Critic was the first of only two that featured substantial pictorial content—the other being the number on Shanghai War Victims (see below). The editorial 'Sino-British Relations' contends that this relationship has improved remarkably since the Thirtieth of May Incident 五卅惨案 of 1925, and the 'Manchuria Incident' of 1931, with the British, as 'realists', responding to an ever-stronger China with support and goodwill:

The British government became convinced that a strong Chinese government, and not a foreign regime imposed upon China, is the true solution of the Far Eastern problem… . The British are realists, they act as any given situation demands. They gave up their Hankow concession, and they allowed the Japanese a free hand in Manchuria, when it was to their interest to do so. But above all they keep their eyes on their interests, which must not be jeopardized, as the change of their attitude toward Japan clearly indicates.

In his article 'Sino-British Friendship' Wang Chung-hui 王寵惠, then Acting President of the Executive Yuan and Minister of Foreign Affairs, extends his 'best felicitations' to the British people on the occasion of the coronation. While conceding that Britain and China have 'had [their] differences in the past', Wang appeals to the 'sterling quality' of British sportsmanship, and to similarities between China and Britain as evidence of an enduring friendship: 'It may be said of the Chinese and British people alike that they “prefer butter to cannons,” that they want no other lands, and that they desire peace at home and abroad.'

An additional four letters of felicitation, each appended with a portrait of the author, are contributed by Chinese Minister of Finance, H.H. Kung 孔祥熙—who was also China's envoy at the coronation; H.E. Quo Tai-chi 郭泰祺, Chinese ambassador to the Court of St James; British ambassador to China, Sir Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen and acting mayor of greater Shanghai Mr. O.K. Yui 俞鴻鈞, who writes:

Shanghai owes much to the enterprise of British traders and merchants in the early days of its history, and no less to those who arrived later… . How fitting it is then for the Chinese people of Shanghai to take an active interest in an occasion, which by all intents and purposes is British.

15 July

Fig.3 Front cover of The China Critic Special Coronation Number

The editorial 'The Wanping Incident' covers the clash between Japanese and Chinese soldiers at Wanping 宛平 in Hebei province—more commonly referred to as the 'Marco Polo Bridge Incident' (蘆溝橋事變, or 七七事變)— commonly regarded as the start of the second Sino-Japanese War. This editorial provides both perspectives of the affair, and notes that Japan dispatched twenty-thousand troops to areas surrounding Beiping, as well as to Shanghaiguan and Tangshan in Hebei. The China Critic covers the reaction of the Nanjing government to the hostilities, but it is clear that the incident was not regarded at the time as the formal outbreak of war:

The central government's order was to the effect (1) not to accept any demand, (2) not to yield an inch of territory, and (3) in case of necessity to make the supreme sacrifice, i.e., a large scale warfare. While the Chinese troops are prepared to resist every attack of the Japanese, it remains to be seen whether the Japanese cabinet's decision will be respected by its army officers in North China and Manchuria. Will there be peace or will there be war? The answer depends on the Japanese 'junior officers'.

22 July

Shiao Yen-ching 蕭衍慶 gives a damning assessment of education in 'Mechanical Teaching in Chinese Universities'. He argues that 'mechanical teaching' consists of three problems: 'no close relation between the professors and the students'; a lack of attention to 'students' natural talent and interest' in teaching; and, the lack of time for 'free study', that is the active and engaged pursuit of knowledge outside of classroom that is 'highly esteemed' 'in universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Paris [and] Harvard'. Shiao concludes that '[i]t is no wonder we are so far behind them in literature, sociology, philosophy, especially in natural science.'

5 August: A Special Number on the North China Trouble

This special number addresses developments in North China following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident (盧溝橋事變 also known as the '7 July Incident' 七七事變) the previous month. The Editorial, 'Japan's Provocative Acts', observes that 'the Lukuoqiao incident has developed into serious proportions and at the time of writing war in everything but name exists in north China.' In follows with a summary events that occurred every day between 8 July and 29 July, on which day Japan launched an attack on Tianjin.

Randall Gould predicts gloom and international neglect for China in his article 'China on Her Own':

When civilization becomes a fact rather than a mere twelve-letter word, and when nations are made to conduct their affairs according to something the same law as individuals [sic], the test will no longer be that of brute strength. As matters stand, however involved the world may be in a Far Eastern war, it is the way of that world to let the war start first and to try to do something effective later. Perhaps Shaw was right in his speculation that other planets may use this one as a lunatic asylum!

This issue contains articles by K.S. Ma 馬國驥 and Polieu Dai 戴葆 鎏 that commenting respectively on 'Lukouchiao—Before and After', and 'Underlying Factors in the North China Crisis'.

30 September

This week The China Critic—just seven pages long and focusing predominantly on Japan's war—reports upon the official dissolution of the Jiangxi Soviet, and the formation of the Kuomintang-Communist United Front in an Editorial titled 'Communist Menace Removed'. The editorial comments on the reorganization of the Communist Party's Eighth Route Army and quotes a statement issued by the Central Committee of the Party to the effect that:

Realising that Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Three People's Principles are indispensable to the reconstruction of China, the Chinese Communist Party now pledges to exert its utmost for the complete realization of these principles. The Chinese Communist Party has decided to abandon all measures aimed at the overthrow of the Kuomintang Government by force, propagation of Communist doctrines and policy of forcible expropriation of land.

11 November: A Special Number on Shanghai War Victims

Fig.4 Sapajou's cartoon on the front cover of The China Critic.

The cover of this week's special issue is decorated with the immediately recognisable work of the White Russian émigrécartoonist Georgii Avksent'ievich Sapojnikoff, better known as Sapajou. This issue contains two photo collages that illustrate the plight of war victims and refugees, contributed by 'Mr. H.S. "Newsreel" Wong' 王海升. While it was not included in either of these collages, Wong's photograph of a crying baby sitting amongst the rubble of the Shanghai train station became one of the most enduring and controversial images of the Sino-Japanese conflict—it was widely claimed the picture was staged. The image in the top-right corner of the collage titled 'Typical Scenes of Chinese War Victims' appears to show this baby from a different angle.

Two articles—'The Shanghai International Red Cross' by W.W. Yen 顏惠慶, chairman of the Shanghai Red Cross,and 'A Worthy Cause' by Shanghai's mayor O.K. Yui 俞鴻鈞—offer details of the continuing efforts of this organization following the 18 September Incident, and appeal for donations.

John Earl Baker, Director of the Shanghai Red Cross, contributes 'Coordinating War Relief Efforts in Shanghai'; V.T. Bang Chou 彭望荃, at this time a regular contributing editor and the only female member of The China Critic's editorial board, supplies her interview with Father R. Jacquinot, the director of one of forty-five refugee camps in the French concession. In 'Wounded Soldiers' Hospital in Shanghai' F.C. Yen 顏福慶 recounts his experiences touring a number of hospitals.

(See 'Sapajou's Shanghai' by Richard Rigby, China Heritage Quarterly, June 2010, for more on the artist and his milieu.)

18 November

The Editorial 'The Book Street of Shanghai' describes street fighting and disturbances at Foochow Road 福州路, then and still today the centre of Shanghai's publishing industry and a popular haunt for booklovers.The author provides a detailed account of magazines that were forced to reduce their size or amalgamate due to paper shortages and a lack of printing facilities, including 'the three more or less Lin Yutangesque magazines, The Yuchowfeng [宇宙鳳], The Hsifeng [西風] and The Iching [易經]', which issued 'three joint publications.'

25 November

This week The China Critic issues another editorial mission statement, 'Entirely About Ourselves'. This is a source for understanding how the editorial position of this weekly now shifts to one of 'entire sympathy' with the Kuomintang:

We pride ourselves on being the oldest existing Chinese-edited-and-owned independent English weekly in China and we have every reason to believe that we can and will be permitted to continue our peaceful work in expressing Chinese views on this disturbed world without undue molestation and restraint… . While the existing circumstances compel us to take cognizance of the realities in Shanghai, we have no craving for martyrdom. It is superfluous for us to reiterate that our entire sympathy rests now with our government and its cause, but we must admit that we are not blind patriots … if and when the even the minimum condition of our existence is not granted us, we will not hesitate a moment to shut our doors, pack up our troubles and retire quietly in quest of idleness. But unless and until such an event occurs, which we hope and think will not, we shall always meet our readers on the appointed day. [Italics added]

23 December

This week's leading Editorial, 'Spiritual Awakening', declares, rather callously, that the Japanese invasion can be seen as a 'blessing in disguise.' The triumphalist and propagandistic tone of this piece is typical of much of The China Critic's war coverage . The Editorial describes the relocation of the government to Chongqing, Sichuan province, along with the removal of China's industrial base to the hinterland provinces, as a new chapter in the resistance:

Japan could not have served China better. In attempting to crush the revolutionary spirit of modern China, she has produced the very conditions which may set aflame a revolutionary ardor that will sweep everything before it.

The devastated citizens of Nanjing might have disagreed that Japan's invasion constituted a 'blessing in disguise': the 'News of the Week' column in this issue contains accounts of the 'Rape of Nanking' and 'Nanking Horror', reprinted from articles that had appeared in The North China Daily News over previous days.

1928 | 1929 | 1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934 | 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1938 | 1939 | 1940 | 1945