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BOOKS

The Reporter and the Warlords

An Australian at large in China's republican revolution

Craig Collie

RRP: £14.99

6 February 2014

Published by Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781742377971

Set against the turbulent background of China in the first half of the 20th Century, this reads like a romantic novel; but it’s a true story. The reporter is the intrepid Australian journalist Will Donald, who arrived in Hong Kong in 1903 and by 1908 was Managing Editor of the China Mail.

As a freelance journalist based in Shanghai, Donald then became advisor to a number of influential public figures, including Sun Yat-Sen and Chiang Kai-Shek, entangling himself in their power struggles. He participated in the armed struggle to overthrow the last emperor of China and then wrote proclamations for Sun Yat-Sen, who ultimately became Provisional President of the Republic of China.

Will Donald’s most intriguing alliance was with the swashbuckling Manchurian warlord and morphine-addicted womaniser, Zhang Xueliang. The lives of these two extraordinary men became entwined over the decades and provide a compelling narrative. The role of both Australian and American advisors in these events has a particularly modern resonance.