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”­ •\ ŽÒFYu MaochuniAssociate Professor of East Asia and Military History United States Naval Academyj


The Role of Media in China During World War II

World War II ushered in an age of mass media in China functioning as a potent instrument of war fighting. Total war in nature, the eight-year conflict in China created an outpouring of mass mobilization through media for the single purpose of defeating the enemies. It was also during World War II, media in China became a part of the military operations in the form of disinformation and black propaganda. Yet in the meantime, the war provided an excellent opportunity for various political and bureaucratic factions in China to publish partisan media outlets to engage in internecine in-fights within their own rank. In this talk, I will briefly discuss these various roles of media in China during World War II.

I. Unity and Disunity-a Media Dilemma

The outbreak of war in July 1937 tremendously boosted the national unity of China that had been greatly divided between the Nationalist Central Government (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This national spirit of unity was most pronounced in the sudden surge in numbers of the new publications, all of which carried the central theme of "Resisting Japan." This outpouring of new publications further diversified the formats of Chinese media as well, with a wide variety of dailies, weeklies, fortnightlies, or monthlies. In the Chinese northern city of Tianjin (“V’Ã), for example, before the war, there had been no more than half a dozen regular publications of all kinds. Within a year and a half, the publicly circulated new publications mushroomed to over 30. They include ŽÀ˜^C’·éC“”“ƒC‰ð•úC ’†ŽRC™áºCRíC ‰ÎüC ‘åOC‹]µ•ñCR“ú¬•ñC“¢˜`ŒŽŠ§C¶‘¶ŽüŠ§C ‹IŽ–•ñ and so on. [1]

However, this unity was also misleading. Under the facade of national united front against Japan, the Nationalist Central Government lost control over a significant part of the media publication, because now its rival, the CCP, had a legitimate reason to expand its control over new publications. In fact, it was during the war that the CCP was for the first time able to use such newspapers as New China Daily (xinhua ribao) to propagandize its party line and gained national recognition. In the case of Tianjin, more than half of the new publications, as listed above, were controlled by the CCP. Furthermore, the war stimulated the great need to set up radio stations to drum up war propaganda. This gave the CCP chances to penetrate into the KMT propaganda organizations. The KMT-run Central Broadcasting Radio Station (’†‰››ö”d“d‘ä, established in 1928 with the call sign XGOA), for example, expanded its coverage to remote areas after 1937. Yet its key stations nationwide, including the Shanxi i蝐¼j Station and the more important Kunming Station, were virtually taken over by the CCP underground agents. [2]

One could argue that part of the reason why the KMT lost to the CCP in 1949 was because the CCP was able to gain sizeable control over mass media as propaganda tools during WWII while the KMT's otherwise rigid press control eroded greatly during the war. In the stuggle between unity and disunity, the latter triumphed sub rosa, which laid the foundation for the demise of the KMT government in 1949.

II. Media as an Instrument of War

Never before in Chinese history did mass media become a potent method of war as it did during WWII. On the KMT government side, a vast newspaper enterprise was operated by the intelligence apparatus for the single purpose of gathering intelligence and spreading disinformation to destabilize enemy's will to fight. Both Wang Pengsheng's Institute of International Research and Dai Li 's (Tai Li, ‘ÕŠ}) Bureau of Investigation and Statistics ran newspapers and other media outlets for intelligence purposes.

After the Pearl Harbor attacks, the Americans entered the China theater. It was the Americans who used the media as a legitimate way of war on a massive scale. The first American organization that legitimized the use of media as war fighting was the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) under Major General William J. Donovan, who argued, successfully, that during a war, it was absolutely justifiable to use the media to "fabricate propaganda, rumor and news, and to disseminate the same, whether true or false, to promote or incite resistance, revolution, and sabotage of all kinds." [3] As such, a wartime organizations was set up and became active in China during the war when the Americans were involved. It was called the Morale Operation (MO) branch of the OSS, whose function was purely to engage in "black propaganda," i.e., to make up rumors and other disinformation to confuse and impact the Japanese morale in China.

Based in Chungking and Kunming, the MO branch employed mostly journalists and artists, including the long-time Wall Street Journal's Tokyo correspondent Raymond Cromley, the journalist Elizabeth McDonald, and the cartoonist William Smith. An OSS MO report to Washington in November 1944 lists many examples of the rumors made up by its China operatives and spread to the Japanese occupied areas. They include "parody of (Japanese) battlefield code-exact facsimile of captured (Japanese) code book, with text satirizing the foolishness of (Japanese) eithcs in demanding sacrifice for insincere and selfish leaders;" and "faked (Japanese) leaflet-purporting to come from (Japanese) Army, leaflet telling of coming of southern Burmese troops into Burma (distasteful to northern Burmese) distributed by OSS agents behind (Japanese) lines;" and "counterrumors at Kweilin-during early (Japanese) advance MO personnel launched rumors to staunch effective flow of (Japanese)-inspired fears, receiving back with exaggerations 8 out of 30 stories spread concerning growing Allied might." [4] The same report also states the establishment of MO bases in Kandy (in today's Sri Lanka), Delhi, Nazira, Kweilin and Chungking, and the fact that "Chinese agents (were) trained and organized into 2 MO teams sent to Canton and Macao to establish intelligence network and acquire printing facilities for creation and distribution of subversive propaganda." [5]

The Japanese Communist Party chief Sanzo Nozaka, or as the Americans called him Okano Susumu, was staying with the Chinese Communist Party leadership in Yenan throughout most of the war. He became an advisor to the OSS MO operations and helped the Americans operate black propaganda radio stations beaming at the Japanese homeland as well as the Japanese occupation army in China. [6] For his help, Sanzo Nozaka demanded that the Americans pay him $400,000 in the Japanese Federal Reserve Currency for North China. [7]

The most elaborate wartime newspaper enterprise used as a military operation was the Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury (‘å”ü”Ó•ñ). First established by American expatriates in Shanghai in 1929, the Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury grew into a respectable and influential newspaper in China. Initially, it was published in English. In 1933, its Chinese edition began publishing with great success. In December 1937, the Japanese military authorities in Shanghai tried to close down the Chinese edition, but it was owned by the American interest. As a result, the Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury was allowed to publish inside the Japanese occupied Shanghai until 8 December 1941 when the Japanese military moved into the foreign Settlements and closed down both the English and the Chinese editions of the Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury, at a time when its Chinese edition alone enjoyed a circulation of 40,000.

One year later, in December 1942, C.V. Starr, the principal owner of the Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury, offered his newspaper to the OSS as a cover to gather intelligence and conduct MO operations against the Japanese. As a senior OSS Special Intelligence officer reasoned, "Newspapermen everywhere are expected to stick their noses into everybody's business. No suspicion attached to their curiosity. A newspaper is therefore automatically almost indestructible cover for the collection of information." [8] On 1 January 1943, the OSS took on Starr's offer and started the New York edition of the Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury as an intelligence gathering operation. On 31 October 1943, the Chungking edition was also started. These two newspapers were to last until the end of the war as an OSS intelligence project. By July 1944, the OSS had spent $350,000 on these two publications. Veteran journalists were sent to Chungking to collect

information for the OSS. By July 1944, 18 months after its function as an OSS project, the Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury was able to boast great success: "Data on over 5,000 individuals has been assembled and carefully edited-covering Japanese, Koreans, European and American suspects, Chinese, Indo-Chinese, Thais, Malays, Burmese and Indian puppets and collaborators." Also accomplished were a huge body of intelligence reports and analysis-1,500 in all-on a variety of subjects ranging from "Japanese Americans in China," to "Japanese Gendarmerie," to "Currency Warfare in China," and to "Penetration of Christian Church by Japanese." [9]

III. Media as Effective Weapons for Internecine In-fight In Wartime China

World War II/China was remarkable for its fierce internal bickering among various factions. The CBI theater officially stands for China-Burma-India Theater, but instead was widely perceived as "Constant Bickering Inside." In order to advance partisan causes and bureaucratic turf claims, all sides used media as a weapon of self-promotion, and intentional leaking through newspapers aimed to denigrate others or sabotage other's policies. The top U.S. commanders in China, General Joseph Stilwell and General Claire Chennault were hostile toward each other on almost every issue and deeply despised each other personally. In order to enhance personal image, both Stilwell and Chennault used veteran correspondents to promote themselves in China and in the U.S. Surrounding Stilwell were partisan reporters such as Theodore White and Jack Beldon who wrote countless dispatches glowingly praising the very controversial general. Equally media conscious was Chennault whose primary image maker was the very powerful journalist Joseph Alsop working inside Chennault's Kunming Headquarters.

In fact, the Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury also became bitterly partisan in attacking the rival of the OSS, namely the Sino-American Cooperative Organization or SACO, a setup jointly run by the U.S. Navy and the Chinese Secret Service under Major General Dai Li.

But the most partisan role the media played in wartime China involved the promotion of the Chinese Communists by foreign journalists. Contrary to popular perception, the wartime media control by the KMT government was quite ineffective for the most part. The press office in charge of media censorship and wartime reporting was under Chiang Kai-shek's confidante Hollington Tong. He was publicly resented by the foreign journalists that had flocked to China during the war. Many of them were pro-Communist and disliked the KMT ideologically regardless. Israel Epstein, Agnes Smedley, Anna Louise Strong, Ilona Ralf Suess, and Gunther Stein etc were vigorous promoters of the Chinese Communist Party in their partisan reporting for major newspapers in the Western democracies. Yet others not predisposed to be ideologically strident, such as Tilman Durdan, Harrison Foreman, James Young, Brooks Atkinson and Maurice Votaw were frequently unhappy about any wartime restrictions on news reporting. Such resentment against the Nationalist Central Government finally created a dramatic episode in June 1944 when a large delegation of journalists visited Yenan, the CCP stronghold in North China. This was a windfall for the CCP and it was thoroughly exploited as a propaganda event to champion the CCP's "democratic reforms" and the Communists' "love" of President Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms." [10]

In addition to these visiting journalists praising the CCP, there were also a few permanent media personnel in Yenan promoting partisan causes. The Soviet TASS news agency had its permanent reporter in Yenan, which is not surprising. But the more interesting case is Michael Lindsay, who had been the Press Officer in the British Embassy in China previously but went to Yenan in early 1942 and stayed there until the war's end. Lindsay, a British aristocrat soaked with blue blood, vociferously championed Mao's guerilla war against the Japanese. [11] In fact, a senior KMT press officer admits that the wartime management of foreign reporting in China had been mostly a failure and was by no means effective. [12]

The partisan nature of wartime media in China can also be seen through the countless incidents of intentional press leaking designed to influence policy-making process. Much top secret information was given to influential newspaper men for publication. Drew

Pearson, the most powerful gossip and political columnist in the U.S. during World War II, often dished out astonishingly embarrassing details of bureaucratic in-fights related to the China theater. [13] Perhaps the ultimate climax of this pernicious partisan manipulation of media in order to influence government policy is the "Amerasia" case in which many top secret U.S. government documents were illegally provided to the procommunist magazine for publication. But the occurrence of this case serves a good point for me to stop here because the war was essentially over by this time, but it ushered in a new war, i.e. Cold War, both in China and the in the United States.

NOTES:
[1] ‹ª‘½•ŸC"Rí‰Šú“V’Ã’n‰ºo”Å“IR“úŠ§•¨C"ŽjéeC"“V’ßË蜍@”é–§o ”Å“Iq‹IŽ–•ñrC"“V’Õ¶ŽjŽ‘—¿‘ISC‘æ39 WC“V’Ðl–¯o”ŎЁC 1987 ”NŽlŒŽ.
[2] ’ÂŽz³C"R“ú˜a‰ð•úí‘ˆ’†“I©–¾›ö”d“d‘äC"©–¾•¶ŽjŽ‘—¿‘ISC‘æ11 WC1988 ”N8 ŒŽGÑ”V‹VC"Ý‘–¯“}›ö”d“d‘ä—¢“IŒ©•·C"¼ˆÀ•¶ŽjŽ‘—¿C 1982 ”N12 ŒŽ
[3] Memo, Donovan to Joint Psychological Warfare Committee, subject: response to J.W.C. 45/D, forwarded on 31 October 1942 and included as an Enclosure to SECRET, J.P.W.C. 45/1, Record Group 226, the National Archives, College Park, Maryland, U.S.A.
[4] Memo, Col. K.D. Mann, AUS, Chief MO, to Lt. Cmdr Reichner, "Typical MO Achievements in ETO, MEDTO & FETO," 4 November 1944, the Troy Papers, Record Group 263, Box 12, Folder 98, the National Archives, College Park, Maryland, U.S.A.
[5] Ibid.
[6] OSS MO report from Yenan, subject: comments of Japanese Communist leader on American psychological warfare, 29 July 1944, Entry 99, Box 68, Folder 219, Record Group 226, the National Archives, Maryland, U.S.A.
[7] Top secret memo, Colling and Stelle to Hall, subject: APPLE project, Entry 148, Box 7, Folder 103 "Dixie," Record Group 226, the National Archives, Maryland, U.S.A.
[8] Memo, J.M. McHugh, to Chief, S.I., Subject: "Survey of accomplishments of Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury enterprise to date," 1 July 1944, James McHugh Paper, Olin Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, U.S.A.
[9] McHugh memo, "The Wartime Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury-an OSS Project," 1 July 1943. the McHugh Paper, Olin Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, U.S.A.
[10] ‹àéC"‹L’†ŠO‹LŽÒŽQŠÏ’c–K–≄ˆÀG"’£Ž–¾C"1944 ”N’†ŠO‹LŽÒ’c‰„ˆÀ ”VsC"dŒc•¶ŽjŽ‘—¿C‘æ26 WC 1986 ”N6 ŒŽ
[11] See for example Lindsay's report published in Amerasia magazine, "North China Front," March/April 1944.
[12] ’¾Œ•“øC"Rí@ŠúdŒc“IŠO‘‹LŽÒC"“`‹L•¶Šw i‘ä–kjC ‘æŽl\˜Z™É‘æ ŽlŠú
[13] The most glaring example was Pearson's 15 June 1945's "the Washington Merry- Go-Round" column in which the Hurley-Wedemeyer dispute was exposed in the public causing quite abit political turmoil.

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