When China's War of Resistance against Japan broke out in 1937, many foreign correspondents rushed to China. Peter Fleming covered the war for The Times. Joris Ivens, the Dutch Left-wing film-maker, led the History Today film crew. He as well as Robert Capa, the war photographer, had moved on straight from Spain, where Franco had just prevailed in the Spanish Civil War. Christopher Isherwood and W.H. Auden felt like 'characters in one of Jules Verne's stories about lunatic English explorers' when they travelled to the battlefields of China. Isherwood wrote with sympathy about Chinese soldiers and Auden in his poems expressed the sad absurdity of war. 1 Franco's victory in Spain, the spread of militarism and fascism in Europe, the callousness of appeasing West European democracies, the alternative of Communism, and the dread of another world war were the themes featuring in their reporting on the events unfolding in China.
When the books came out in the following year, all were opposed to the Japanese and many wrote favourably about the Nationalists, the ruling party, which led the Chinese war effort. In 1939, Robin Hyde in Dragon Rampant described the first great battles of the war praising the Chinese. In the same year, Charles Shepherd in The Case Against Japan detailed Japanese violations of international law and disregard for the League of Nations. Harold Timperley of the Manchester Guardian gave publicity to the Nanjing Massacre in What War Means: the Japanese Terror in China. Johan Gunnar Andersson's China Fights for the World stated that 'among the democratic powers, China alone has for twenty-five months fought singled-handed and against tremendous odds to uphold the right of a nation to live its free and independent life'. 2 Andersson had lived for many years in China and praised the Nationalists for what had been achieved in state-building and economic reconstruction, but also wrote that rural poverty remained a serious problem, commenting, however, that 'Chiang Kaishek knows where the shoe pinches'. 3
In 1940, Hallett Abend, writing to awaken the US public to the USA's destiny in China, criticised Nationalist corruption, profiteering, and nepotism, but also praised the Nationalists for responding well to the challenges of the war and argued that China was experiencing a revival. In China's Struggles with the Dictators, which had a foreword by Guo Taiji, the Chinese Ambassador in London, O.M. Green, closely following Nationalists propaganda, described the Nationalists as having bedded down a new unity in China and as capably leading its transformation into a modern nation.
Even Theodore White, whose Thunder out of China of 1946, written together with Annalee Jacoby, became a best-selling indictment of the Nationalists, reported on