Foreign nationals who won Chinese hearts

Yao Minji Dai Mengyi
Foreigners have been coming to Shanghai shores for years. Some stayed on, became Chinese and joined the Communist Party of China; others came and went, leaving a lasting legacy.
Yao Minji Dai Mengyi

A recent stage drama was humorously promoted as one about "five masters ashore the North Bund." It referred to five giants of the 20th century who visited Shanghai and boarded through the North Bund.

Charlie Chaplin, Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw and Rabindranath Tagore were five of the most famous foreign guests who visited the 1920s and 1930s Shanghai, entering the city through what is known today as the North Bund.

Russell, who spent a year in 1920 giving lectures in China and Japan, later published his experiences in "The Problem of China" and suggested Western recognition of the People's Republic of China.

Many others, famous or otherwise, entered the city from various docks. Some stayed on, became Chinese and joined the Communist Party of China; others came and went, leaving a legacy that is still remembered by today's Chinese.

Foreigners who are better known by their Chinese names

  • Translator of Mao's works 

An American scholar Sidney Rittenberg, who devoted himself to Communism since his youth, came to China after World War II and witnessed the historical changes unfolding in the country.

In 1945, Rittenberg came to Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan Province, with US forces, where he got to know China and Chinese people at close quarters.

He was shocked by the corruption and inequalities of life in China under Chiang Kai-shek's Kuomintang and so devoted himself to the Communist revolution in the country.

In 1946, Rittenberg helped establish the English Broadcast at Xinhua radio station and trained the first English broadcasters in China.

The same year, Rittenberg officially joined the CPC in Yan'an.

During his 35-year stay in China, Rittenberg also translated Mao's Complete Works into English.

Foreign nationals who won Chinese hearts

Chairman Mao Zedong (left) and Sidney Rittenberg, an American scholar known as Li Dunbai in China

  • Dr Ma who saved thousands of Chinese

Dr Shafick George Hatem, known as Ma Haide in China, was born in an American working-class family and settled in Shanghai in 1933.

In the early 1930s, Ma Haide set off to Shanghai to establish a medical practice after getting an MD in the US. When the full-fledged war with Japan started in 1937, Ma devoted himself to medical services on the frontline, where he was commonly known as "Dr Ma."

As a specialist in the field of venereal diseases, Ma contributed much to the research on the ailment in China. In 1953, Ma helped organize and participated in setting up the new Dermatology and Venereology Research Institute in Beijing to deal with the control of VD, as well as in training medical workers and conducting relevant epidemiological studies and research. It was by the end of the 1950s that eradication of VD was practically accomplished in China.

Foreign nationals who won Chinese hearts

Shafick George Hatem, a US doctor known in China by his Chinese name Ma Haide.

  • The Austrian doctor expelled by Nazi and joined the New Fourth Army to fight Japanese

Austrian doctor Jakob Rosenfeld, who was forced to leave Germany upon his release from Buchenwald in 1939, settled in Shanghai, and later joined the New Fourth Army in the fight against the Japanese invasion.

In 1941, Rosenfeld went to north China, where he worked as a doctor in the New Fourth Army, the Eighth Route Army and the Northeast People's Liberation Army during China's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-1945), and the Chinese civil war in Shandong and Jiangsu provinces.

Rosenfeld conducted a large number of surgical operations under relatively undesirable working conditions during the war. For example, he had to perform surgery on a small boat, but he hardly ever complained.

After victory in the anti-Japanese war and as the Nazi regime fell in Europe, Rosenfeld chose to remain in China and served as a health minister in the Northeast Field Army.

Foreign nationals who won Chinese hearts

Jakob Rosenfeld, an Austrian doctor who served in the army of the Communist Party of China between 1941 and 1951

Foreign friends who left behind a legacy

  • 'Red James Bond'

James Bond creator Ian Fleming once called Richard Sorge "the most formidable spy in history." The "red James Bond" is best known for having gone undetected for nine years in Tokyo, and alerting the Soviets to Hitler's plan to attack.

But it was in Shanghai, where he arrived in 1930 and spent two years, that Sorge recruited Hotsumi Ozaki, later one of his most important informants in Japan. The network he developed in Shanghai covered informants from more than 10 countries.

In 1930, Sorge abided by the Soviet exporters of Communist revolution to bolster the beleaguered CPC and spy on the Kuomintang government. In exchange for the information, he posed as a China correspondent for the thrillingly titled German Grain News and proceeded to Shanghai.

Foreign nationals who won Chinese hearts

The "red James Bond" Richard Sorge

  • One-armed Priest who saved thousands by negotiating a demilitarized zone

Robert Jacquinot de Besange, a French Jesuit, set up a safety zone in Shanghai during the Japanese invasion in the 1930s, which was imitated in other Chinese cities.

When the Japanese army invaded Shanghai in 1937, de Besange helped negotiate a demilitarized zone for Chinese civilians. Both Chinese and Japanese armies had various concerns and conditions for this new proposal, with the French Jesuit communicating between the two battling parties, as well as organizing and calling for help from other social groups.

The safety zone, set up in a part of the Old Town of Shanghai, was respected by both sides of the war until shortly after he left the city in 1940. It saved more than 300,000 Chinese civilians during the three years.

Known to locals by his Chinese name Rao Jiaju, de Besange arrived in China in 1913 as a missionary.

Foreign nationals who won Chinese hearts

French missionary Robert Jacquinot de Besange, known to locals by his Chinese name Rao Jiajua, set up a safety zone model in Shanghai during the Japanese invasion in the 1930s, which was imitated in other Chinese cities.

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