National Geographic : 1945 Feb
Today on the China Coast BY JOHN B. POWELL I FIRST saw the China Coast 27 years ago. With another Missourian, Thomas F. Millard, long an American correspond ent in the Far East, I edited the China Press, a daily English-language newspaper at Shang hai. Later I also published the China Weekly Review. In Shanghai, as in Tientsin, we then enjoyed extraterritoriality. In the so-called foreign concessions, or settlements, we had our own courts, post offices, and churches (page 237). European firms had their own stores, banks, warehouses, docks, and shipyards. We played tennis and golf, bet on the ponies, went snipe and duck shooting, took week-end pleasure trips on launches, houseboats, and junks, saw the "latest" American movies, and enjoyed an exclusive club life. The first sharp break in my journalistic life came in 1923. While on a trip to North China, I was captured and held for ransom by bandits. But that's another story. Before Japan invaded China in 1937, about 6,000 Americans were settled in China ports, from the Manchurian coast down to Hong Kong and Canton. This number does not in clude the American Marines and soldiers who, since the turbulent days of the Boxer outbreak (1900) and the Nationalist Army's northward drive (1927), had been maintained as legation guards. Later, when the Chinese capital was moved south, they remained as permanent garrisons at Peiping, Tientsin, and Chinwangtao, in North China, and at Shanghai, at the mouth of the Yangtze. Vast Area Penetrated by Japs As I write, the Japanese control about 29 percent of China's total area, or about 1,300, 000 square miles of the total of 4;/ million square miles. Land held by the invaders, as shown by the map on page 223, includes all of Manchuria, part of Mongolia, and a coastal strip taking in most of the Provinces of Hopeh, Shansi, Shantung, Anhwei, and Kiangsu, and, more recently, certain sections of Honan, Hupeh, Hunan, Kiangsi, Chekiang, Fukien, and Kwangtung Provinces. At strategic points on this long coast we and our allies will finally get bases from which to stage the last acts of our war against Japan. Reading north, up this coast, the chief ports are: Canton, Hong Kong, Swatow, Amoy, Foochow (Minhow), Ningpo (Ninghsien), Shanghai, Tsingtao, Chefoo, Tientsin (some 30 miles up the Hai River from Taku), Chin wangtao, the Manchurian port of New chwang (Yingkow), and Dairen. The Japs hold every one of these.* More later of the last two ports, because since Japanese occupation they have become of enormous importance. Clipper Ships Traded Furs for Silk and Tea Canton was the first port with which Ameri cans traded. Our clipper ships sailed there to trade furs for silk and tea more than 150 years ago. Hong Kong is an island off the south coast of China, opposite Kowloon peninsula (page 224) and some 90 miles by water southeast of Canton. This almost empty rock was ceded by the Chinese to Great Britain in 1841, and the British made it a Crown Colony.f In De cember, 1941, the Japanese captured it. Conditions here reflect the picture of events in other ports now held by the invaders. Already, from refugees, the world knows of the wanton murder, rape, pillage, and starvation which ensued in the first days after the Japanese landed. One American tells of Japs looting soldiers, proudly going about Hong Kong with their sleeves rolled up, the better to show their arms covered up to the elbows with stolen wrist watches! This rich British colony was a particularly fat prize. Planning to withstand a siege, Hong Kong residents had crammed its enormous warehouses with goods; of certain supplies enough to last two or three years was on hand. Much of this the invaders immediately loaded on ships for transport to Japan. British ships, scuttled at the approach of the Japanese, were soon salvaged by them and put into their service. To make it easier to feed the city and de fend it, the invaders deported about half of the native population, sending them back to mainland China. Hotel men were brought from Japan to man age the Hong Kong hotels, and Japanese were put in charge of bakeries, dairies, rice dis tribution, and other food industries. Courts were set up with Japanese judges. Trial by jury was abolished. Above all, every * See "Coastal Cities of China," by W. Robert Moore, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, November, 1934. t See "1940 Paradox in Hong Kong," by Frederick Simpich, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, April, 1940.