The Shanghai Years - 1929-1933

When Agnes Smedley crossed the Soviet-Manchurian border into China in late December of 1928, British intelligence officers sprang into action. They informed the U.S. consul in Harbin that she was an undesirable who had forfeited her U.S. citizenship by marrying a British subject, Virendranath Chattopadhyaya. Convinced that her purpose in coming to China was to incite Sikh soldiers and police to rebellion in the treaty ports, they asked the U.S. consul to declare her passport invalid so that they could deport her. When questioned at the U.S. consulate, Smedley mentioned her family connection to the American Revolution and pointed out that she had never been legally married to Chatto, who was, she said, in any case still married to an Irish nun.[1]
Wintering in Manchuria (now China's northeastern provinces of Harbin, Liaoning, and Heilongjiang) is a harsh experience under the best of circumstances. In 1928 the region was ruled by a combination of warlords and foreign powers. Foremost among those powers were the Japanese, who had been turning Manchuria into a semi-colony since 1915. A few months before Smedley's arrival, radical elements in the Japanese military had assassinated warlord Zhang Zuolin, hoping either to provoke a war or to find a more pliable instrument in the person of Zhang's Japanese-educated son, Zhang Xueliang. The result was even greater confusion, a breakdown in law and order, and heightened international tension, especially after the son proved to be even more nationalistic and anti-Japanese than the father. Banditry was rife in Manchuria. For decades, pillage by marauding bandits or unattached »soldiers« had been an annual occurrence. The people were exhausted and picked clean. The poverty of the peasants was more profound than any Smedley had ever seen, and conditions in the principal cities of Harbin and Mukden (Shenyang) were desperate. Emotionally overwhelmed by what she saw and shaken by harassment from authorities, she collapsed and spent over a week in bed.
One of the first subjects Smedley wanted to explore for the Frankfurter Zeitung was the position of women in China. The result was one of her first works of reportage from Manchuria, »Five Women of Mukden«.  Although Smedley had yet to realize it, the subject was even more highly charged in China than in India or Western Europe. In China by 1929, a generation of reformers had made the plight of women a symbol of the backwardness of the old society, and thus of the need for drastic social change; the issue had become fundamental, dividing right from left. In her early stories for the Zeitung, Smedley most often illustrated the tradition of oppression of women by reference to the brutal practice of footbinding, the reduction of the adult female foot to an elegant »golden lily«,  three inches from heel to toe. With some regional and class variation, footbinding had been inflicted upon Chinese women since the tenth century. Economically and socially, women lived in bondage, although here again, the form varied from class to class and region to region. Often, as Smedley wrote in one article, lower-class women were bought or sold as meicai, household slaves. How marriage institutionalized the subordination of women to men was another theme of Smedley's stories. To begin with, all marriages were arranged by parents, and a bride usually left her home (the wealthier ones, with a dowry) to live and work in the home of a stranger, her husband. Only within the institution of marriage, as a breeder of males, could a woman rise in status. Otherwise, as the old proverb went, »a woman married is like a pony bought—to be ridden or whipped at the master's pleasure«.  Infanticide of baby girls was common among the lower classes. Traditionally, the only escapes for women were suicide, prostitution, or a Buddhist nunnery.
The seeds of revolutionary change in China, for women and men alike, were planted as early as the mid-nineteenth century, with the Opium War (1839-42) and the Taiping Rebellion (1851-64). The Tai-ping Rebellion was brutally suppressed by 1864, but the Opium War was only the first in a series of confrontations with imperialist powers, first Western nations and later Japan. The result was the piecemeal loss of Chinese sovereignty and a growing cultural defensiveness about many issues, including Western criticism of the lack of education for women and the practice of footbinding as barbaric.
By the late 1890s, prominent male reformers within the Qing dynasty bureaucracy, notably Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao, had attacked footbinding and supported formal education for women, and by the turn of the century the first women revolutionaries appeared in Sun Yat-sen's movement against the dynasty. Most of them, members of the privileged classes, were graduates of new women's colleges in China and abroad, particularly in Japan. Like their Western feminist models, these early radical women in China used the press to advocate women's right to own property, to have free choice in marriage, to pursue education, and to vote. Unlike their Western counterparts, however, they justified their claims with a nationalist appeal: to become a strong nation in the twentieth century, China needed strong, independent wives and mothers.[2]
The cultural link between nationalism and feminism was strengthened by the May Fourth Movement of 1919, a series of student demonstrations and merchant boycotts in major cities against the Treaty of Versailles, by which Western powers recognized Japanese special rights that challenged Chinese sovereignty in Shandong and Manchuria. The May Fourth Movement had radicalized the generation of Chinese women that Smedley would soon meet in Shanghai, Yan'an, and elsewhere. (One of them was Deng Yingchao, a Tianjin student activist and later the wife of Zhou Enlai.) Through the 1920s Ibsen's plays, especially A Doll's House, were translated and widely performed. Footbinding was beginning to die out, and women's organizations were being established in most cities and in some rural communities.
At the same time, urban politics, influenced by the May Fourth Movement, took a more progressive and nationalistic direction. In 1923 and 1924 Sun Yat-sen reorganized his followers along Soviet Bolshevik lines into the Guomindang. He also formed an alliance with the then tiny Chinese Communist Party (established in 1921). Efforts were made to organize and politicize urban workers and peasants, particularly the former. In large treaty-port cities like Shanghai and Guangzhou, a trade union movement emerged in which women were important. In 1923, some 20,000 women silk workers in Shanghai struck successfully for a ten-hour day and a wage of five cents a day. Often the women who led such strikes—Xiang Jingyu, Deng Yingchao, and Ding Ling, for example — were Communists and anarchists from upper-class backgrounds. Smedley had already heard about the role played by women in several major confrontations with Western imperialism such as the one on May 30,1925, when British police in Shanghai opened fire on a large crowd of strikers and student demonstrators. Once in China, she met the participants and wrote about them for the Zeitung.[3]
Sun Yat-sen's death in 1925 produced a permanent ideological split within the leadership of the Guomindang. Initially the left wing of the Guomindang, which sent delegates to the League Against Imperialism meetings in Brussels in 1928 and was supported by Mme. Sun Yat-sen, seemed to be in control. But in retrospect, it seems clear that its power peaked with the completion of the Northern Expedition of 1925-27, a military campaign against warlords that unified south and central China under the Guomindang.
The liberation of Shanghai by a workers' uprising in March of 1927 brought a surge of hope to the left—which was promptly blasted away in the White Terror (or Reaction, as Smedley called it) unleashed by the commander of the Northern Expeditionary forces, Chiang Kai-shek. In April of 1927, without warning, Chiang ordered all Communists rounded up and executed. The left Guomindang, centered at Wuhan, was also driven from Nationalist Party leadership, but the Communists were Chiang's main target. Thousands died, including much of the leadership of the party, and the rest went underground. In desperation, surviving Communists attempted uprisings in several cities, but all of them failed, bringing even greater losses to their ranks. Women with closely cropped hair and unbound feet, symbols of the new Chinese woman, were hunted down as targets for persecution. One of those to fall was Xiang Jingyu, the highest-ranking woman in the Communist Party. In Guangzhou on a single occasion, between two hundred and three hundred women were executed simply for having closely cropped hair (like Smedley's). Over one thousand women leaders were killed in the White Terror. The cost to the revolution and to the women's movement was enormous and forced major changes in the directions both would take.[4]
By the time of Smedley's arrival, in late 1928, open political activity on the left had died down in most major cities. In a few, however (notably Shanghai), Song Qingling, Sun Yat-sen's young widow, became a rallying point for resistance to Chiang Kai-shek's reborn conservative Guomindang. Chiang's marriage to Qingling's sister, Song Meiling, in late 1927 added the dramatic dimension of a family feud to the left-right split within the Guomindang. This split forced the center of gravity of the Chinese revolution to shift slowly back to the countryside, where in the early 1930s, in the remote mountainous regions of the southeastern province of Jiangxi, an alliance was eventually forged between peasants and battle-hardened urban intellectuals, many of whom had been educated in Moscow and the West.
For Smedley, the political context in which the Chinese peasant was living during the early 1930s was defined by war. There was a civil war going on between Chiang Kai-shek and the Communists in the Jiangxi area; and there was an imperialist war in Manchuria, where Japan's Kwantung Army was seizing more and more territory by force of arms. In fact, it was the threat of Japanese imperialism that surprised Smedley most during her first few weeks in China. She had always seen Britain as the main imperialist threat and Japan as anti-imperialist and even a positive model for countries like China and India. Her views changed quickly, and she sent several articles to the Frankfurter Zeitung about the seriousness of Japanese aggression in Manchuria. In disbelief, her German editors refused to publish these articles until the Japanese invasion and occupation of Mukden in 1931 convinced them.[5]
In Mukden, Smedley probed social as well as political realities. In retrospect, it was her ability to empathize with individual Chinese — rich or poor, old or young — that set her apart from other foreign journalists. This can be seen in some of her first works of reportage from Manchuria, the best of which, »Five Women of Mukden«,  appeared in the New Republic. The high point of the vignettes is a scene in which an old footbound beggar woman slips and falls on the frozen street. When people gather to laugh at her lying sprawled on the road, the old woman suddenly turns and bellows at the crowd, cursing its members, individually and collectively; it was »as if a sudden blast of Siberian weather« had struck. In a final cameo portrait, Smedley added a note of hope to her theme of defiance: idealistic students, male and female, ostentatiously break the established social code by offering their seats on a crowded bus to a tired old man. For more than a decade, Smedley had been writing secondhand about the plight of the poor and downtrodden in India. In autobiographical reportage, she was finding her metier. Her autobiographical novel, Daughter of Earth, was just coming out in the United States and Germany. Now, in China, she would use direct contact and personal narrative to bring to life her advocacy of a new cause: the revolutionary hopes of the Chinese poor.
In late winter Smedley began to move south, first to Japanese-occupied Dalian-Lushan (Port Arthur) and then on to Beijing, where she met with the Y.M.C. A. reformer James Yen and a young missionary
couple at Yenching University (now Beijing University). In her letters to Margaret Sanger in 1929, Smedley reported on their discussion of birth control and the possibility of establishing clinics in China like the one Smedley had left in Berlin.[6] She then crossed the Yellow River and headed for Nanjing, the capital of Nationalist China on the Yangzi River. Here she wrote a long article on the fanfare with which Sun Yat-sen was reburied in a huge mausoleum on the outskirts of the city. She noted the many political ironies and tensions in the situation, not the least of which was the conflicting speeches given by the Song sisters, Mme. Sun Yat-sen and Mme. Chiang Kai-shek.[7]
In Nanjing, just as in Mukden and Beijing, Smedley sought out members of the small community of German diplomats and journalists, who welcomed her warmly. Several of them, like the Frankfurter Zeitung's famous Beijing-Tianjin correspondent, Herbert Mueller, were politically left of center, which British intelligence took as further evidence of a German-Russian-Comintern plot to make trouble for the British in China so as to undermine Britain's colonial position in India and elsewhere. The British were in earnest about this. On March 29, 1929, in Meerut, a small town in India about 100 miles east of Delhi, they opened a trial: thirty-one suspected Indian Communists and fifty-one absent co-defendants — including Smedley — were charged with »conspiracy to deprive the [British] King [and] Emperor of sovereignty«.  Among those standing trial were Sikh activists, who were charged with publishing in Urdu articles sent from Berlin by Smedley (whom they had never met), including the articles in which she predicted war between Britain and Soviet Russia. In fact, it was the assassination of the British officer who had wounded Lajpat Rai at a protest march in Lahore the previous October, as well as other terrorist acts by Communist revolutionaries in the wake of Rai's death in November, that had provoked the British into launching a major attack on the tiny Indian Communist Party and staging the show trial at Meerut. Learning of Rai's death only when she reached Tianjin, Smedley wrote a note of tribute to Rai, expressing her shock and remorse, which was published in India in April of 1929. The show trial dragged on for three years without a conclusion, but it did succeed in keeping the defendants incarcerated until 1933, and in provoking considerable expressions of sympathy for Indian Communists by Nehru, Gandhi, and others in the mainstream of the Indian nationalist movement. At any rate, just as British intelligence suspected she would, Smedley made contact with Sikh police and other Indian nationalist activists in Nanjing. She also gave lectures on Indian nationalism in both Beijing and Nanjing. But within a few weeks, feeling uneasy and confined in Chiang Kai-shek's Nanjing, she boarded a train for Shanghai.[8]
As China's most populous city (3.4 million) and largest treaty port, Shanghai was in its prime in 1929 and would remain so until 1937. Economically, it had been the most important city in China since the turn of the century. Now, precisely because Chinese politics had reached their nadir and the country was helpless against the machinations of foreign powers, Shanghai thrived as a political and cultural center. Over half of the city was made up of concession areas that were owned and governed by various foreign powers under the overall leadership of the British. It was a unique arrangement and a unique moment in Chinese history. Shanghai, the point of maximum Western penetration of Chinese civilization, had also become a haven for Chinese intellectuals and political dissenters fleeing Guomindang jurisdiction. By 1929 almost every writer and artist of importance, who in normal times might have been in Nanjing, had gravitated to Shanghai. It was home to immensely wealthy and privileged families like the Songs who were allied to powerful (and wealthy) underworld leaders like Du Yuesheng; it harbored the greatest concentration of Guomindang power in the country, and also the underground headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party. This was the heady atmosphere that kept Smedley in the city for the next seven years and provided the background for her first China book of social commentary, Chinese Destinies (1933).[9]
(* In Mukden, Beijing, and Nanjing, Smedley had left her friend—he was ten years younger than she—in their hotel room while she went out to see other foreigners. One day on Avenue Dubail, when everyone was out, the young man found a bottle of creme de menthe and managed to drink all of it. The White Russian landlady returned to find him writhing on the floor, foaming a green liquid at the mouth. Terrified that he might be succumbing to something like rabies, she called a doctor. The doctor rushed over, got one whiff of the patient, and laughed heartily. The landlady was embarrassed and angry, and Gertrude Binder, herself only twenty years old, was amazed. Smedley, who paid the doctor, was not amused and decided on the spot that it was time for her companion to leave (Interview with Gertrude Binder).)
When she arrived in Shanghai in early May of 1929, Smedley went immediately to the French concession area, in hopes of diminishing the effectiveness of British surveillance tactics. Her first step was to look up Gertrude Binder, a young student that Scott Nearing had told her about in Berlin. Binder was working for the most important U.S.-owned newspaper in Shanghai, the China Weekly Review, and was a stringer for a few Midwestern newspapers in America. Smedley proposed that they live together on the second floor of a rooming house on 85 Avenue Du-bail, Binder's present residence. Problems soon arose, because Smedley was not alone: she had brought with her a young Chinese writer she had picked up in Mukden, who had been serving her in the dual capacity of translator and lover. This arrangement was soon abandoned. But the young Manchurian's departure did not bring calm to Avenue Dubail. Smedley, still sexually defiant after her experiences in Berlin, told Binder that she intended to »take sex like a man«.  For several weeks she seemed to bring home »anything in pants that she found around town«.  Binder remembered that one night a young Marine suddenly bolted from the house, frightened by Smedley's aggressive advances. As in New York in 1919-20, however, Smedley soon became satiated and disgusted with herself, and by midsummer her liaisons became longer and more meaningful.[10]
Shanghai's Sikh community was the first focus of serious attention by Smedley. She found this community under heavy surveillance and severely faction-ridden. Nevertheless, during the summer of 1929 she was able to goad the American editor of the China Weekly Review, J. B. Powell, into having a lively debate in print with counterparts in the British press over the treatment of Indian (mostly Sikh) nationalists who were being arrested and murdered in the British concession area. Incensed, the British doubled their watch on Smedley's movements and tried once again to persuade the U.S. and Chinese authorities to hand her over for deportation. But Smedley's involvement with the Sikhs ended abruptly in the fall of 1929, when she returned home one day to find the severed head of a Sikh comrade in her wastebasket. It was the result of murderous in-fighting between Sikh factions—exactly the kind of revenge cycle that Lajpat Rai had warned against. For Smedley it was too much, and she had little more to do with the Sikhs of Shanghai.[11]
Most of the Americans with whom Smedley had friendly contact in Shanghai were reporters at the China Weekly Review. The editor of the Review, J. B. Powell, was a crusty old China hand and former lecturer at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Although he supported the Guomindang and Chiang Kai-shek, he was anti-British and anti-Japanese enough to find common ground with Smedley and to ask her to write book reviews for the paper. Working under Powell was a young reporter, fresh from Missouri, named Edgar Snow. Smedley befriended Snow, who was ten years her junior, and wrote him a warm letter of introduction to Nehru, which Snow took with him on a trip through India in 1930. Smedley's American contacts outside the Review seemed limited to one or two journalists such as Randall Gould, the editor of the daily Shanghai Mercury. She stayed away from U.S. diplomats at the consulate because of their cozy relationship with the British secret service and police.[12]
Of greater importance to Smedley was Shanghai's small community of German leftists, whose political views were closer to her own. They all patronized the Zeitgeist Bookstore near Soochow Creek in the International Settlement, and the manager of the Zeitgeist, Irene Wiede-meyer, became Smedley's good friend and confidante. Through Irene, Smedley located Gerhart and Elli Eisler. (Gerhart had been married previously to Julian Gumperz's present wife, Hede, and Elli was Hede's younger sister.) She also found two old Berlin acquaintances, Arthur and Elsie Ewerts. Gerhart Eisler and Arthur Ewerts were Comintern representatives in Shanghai. (In 1936 Arthur was arrested by Nazi agents in Brazil and brutally tortured into a state of permanent insanity; Elsie died in a Nazi camp at about the same time.) The Eislers and the Ewerts, like Julian Gumperz, were sophisticated Berlin intellectuals. They welcomed Smedley warmly, and she saw her association with them as a natural extension of her Berlin community of friends.[13]
Historians have concluded that at the time of Smedley's arrival in Shanghai, the Comintern was in disarray. Moscow was too preoccupied with internal factional fighting over Stalin's growing influence to give its Shanghai representatives any serious attention or coherent direction; in any case, its main concern was strengthening Soviet Russia for its struggle against the Western imperialists led by the British. For most of 1929, Earl Browder, an important figure in the U.S. Communist Party, was in Shanghai setting up a small organization that Arthur Ewerts subsequently ran without much direction from Moscow.[14] As we have seen, Smedley had known Browder in New York and had described him in Moscow in 1921 as »effeminate and a fraud as head of a workers' movement«.[15] It is doubtful that she would have seen much of him in Shanghai. In short, those who knew Smedley best accepted her self-assessment: she was a freelance revolutionary operating on a global scale. She shared the anti-imperialist goals of the Comintern and consciously cultivated friendships with leftists like the Eislers and Ewerts, whom she undoubtedly knew were Comintern representatives, but a Comintern or Communist Party member she was not.*
(* For the rest of her life, Smedley had to face allegations—originating in Shanghai with British intelligence in the early 1930s—that she was a Comintern agent when she arrived in Shanghai; as evidence, it was claimed that while on her way to China, she had attended the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in Moscow. But that was clearly impossible; in August of 1928, while the Comintern was meeting, Smedley was in Paris, visiting Josephine Bennett and working on the final revisions of Daughter of Earth with her American editor. The remaining evidence of a Comintern connection is circumstantial, based on the fact that in the 1930s Smedley was friendly with a number of Shanghai Comintern figures, beginning with Ewerts and Eisler. But according to everything known about the workings of the Comintern, Smedley could not have been a member unless she had also been a member of a national Communist Party or at least acceptable for membership. And no evidence of such a relation to the American, German, or Indian Communist Party has ever been found. Even British intelligence would often categorize her as an anarchist-syndicalist and not a Communist (Shanghai [British] police assessments in F.B.I. 100-68282-1B32 [Exhibits]).
Smedley's first Chinese contacts were with Western-educated intellectuals, a highly refined group of poets, scholars, and writers with whom she attended elegant dinner parties and took moonlit rickshaw rides. Of these friends, the one best known in the West was Hu Shi, a university professor and disciple of John Dewey, who served during World War II as the Guomindang ambassador to Washington. More liberal politically was Yang Quan, a noted anthropologist with the Academia Sinica.[16] The figure to whom Smedley was most attracted was Xu Zhimo, China's leading romantic poet (who would die tragically in a plane crash in 1931). To a romantic imagination, Xu was the perfect union of East and West. He was Oxford-educated and a favorite of the British critics I. A. Richards and H. G. Wells; he was a disciple of the great Indian poet Rabinandrath Tagore, whom he had hosted in Shanghai shortly before meeting Smedley; and his wife had just taken a lover, making their marriage the talk of literary Shanghai. Tall, thin, and looking poetically sensitive in his Chinese scholar's gown, he could be equally eloquent in English and Chinese. By midsummer of 1929, he and Smedley were having an affair, the high point of which was a two-week boat trip down the Yangzi to the Xu family country estate.[17]
But Smedley was not bedazzled for long. In Battle Hymn of China, she contrasted her »patrician« Chinese friends with the rickshaw men who pulled them around the city: »[My desire to become a patrician myself] became mixed up with thoughts about my rickshaw coolie silently running like a tired horse before me, his heaving breath interrupted by a rotten cough. Suddenly his broad shoulders began to remind me of my father's. I was a dog, the whole lot of us were dogs!« (p. 57).[18]
Smedley's grip on herself and on Chinese realities grew firmer during the fall of 1929. In this process, two men played a crucial role. The first was Chen Hansheng, the head of Shanghai's new Institute for Social Science Research and the father of modern Chinese social science. Brought
up traditionally in a scholar family, by 1924 Chen had university degrees from Pomona, Harvard, and Berlin. Thereafter, he pioneered in rural socioeconomic survey work; he taught at Beijing, Johns Hopkins, Tokyo, Delhi, and elsewhere; he edited journals and wrote over a dozen books in several languages; and all the while, he said, he was »making revolution« — as a member first of the Comintern (1928-35) and then of the Chinese Communist Party.*
(* Chen is one of the last of a remarkable generation of Chinese intellectuals who, like former Premier Zhou Enlai, were equally at home in China or abroad, and whose commitment to a socialist revolution was international in premise. In numerous interviews over a ten-year period, he told stories in which Smedley appears as anarchistic, promiscuous, and hot-tempered; but he emphasized her integrity and wit, her intuitive sense of the essential, and her capacity for self-sacrifice in the cause of the oppressed. He said that she had never been a member of the Comintern or a Communist Party, and that what he admired most of all about her was her principled internationalism. A loyal friend, he kept in contact with Smedley for the rest of her life.)
During the fall of 1929, Chen invited Smedley to join him for two weeks of survey work in the wealthy lake region of Wuxi west of Shanghai. Landlordism in this area was a more powerful institution than in Manchuria, where everyone, the few landlords included, was comparatively poor. By studying the landlord-tenant relationship firsthand, Smedley began to understand the fatalistic acceptance of great poverty existing next to great wealth. She also witnessed, for the first time, suspected Communists being beheaded in the street by local authorities. She could no longer be charged, as she had been in the past by Indian associates, with naivete about social and economic realities in Asia.[19]
The other person from whom Smedley learned much in 1929 was Rewi Alley, a thirty-year-old New Zealander who was inspecting labor conditions for the municipal government in all foreign-controlled factories in Shanghai. With Alley, she tasted the Dickensian world of Shanghai industrial life. As Alley wrote in 1952: »She asked to be shown some factories, and we had just been around some of the shocking sweatshops which were all too common in the 'model settlement' of Shanghai. I can still see her great eyes looking at me intently over the table as I told her some of the suffering, some of the tragedy, some of the denial of life I moved amongst in industrial Shanghai.«[20] In some strong pieces on child labor and the abuse of women (for the Frankfurter Zeitung and later for China Forum), Smedley drew on this experience and on data from Chen Hansheng's pioneering studies of Shanghai's contract labor system.[21]
With the help of Chen Hansheng and Rewi Alley, Smedley was seeing that in China the injustices were so great, and the choices so clear, that there was no ambiguity left in the situation. Here a personal commitment to the oppressed could be made meaningful, and here, if she could endure many hardships, she might have a real impact. As this awareness grew, she lost her passionate interest in the Indian independence movement and in the prospects of war between the Soviet Union and Britain. Toward the end of 1929 she parted with her American roommate, Gertrude Binder, and began to live alone. Her friendships with Chinese became less frivolous, her love life more subdued.
By 1930 Agnes Smedley was well settled in Shanghai and in touch with the underground revolutionary movement. She was writing a great deal and had completed some of her best pieces of feature writing, such as »Hsu Meiling« and »Silk Workers.«[22] Her spirits were high. In the United States and Germany, Daughter of Earth was attracting attention and receiving praise in the sort of journals that mattered to her, such as New Masses and The New Republic. On April 2,1930, she wrote to her old friend Karin Michaelis about finding a new identity:

I live now only for an idea. This surprises me more than anything else. More and more I become political [and] intellectual, with emotions being crowded completely or nearly completely out of my life—I mean any emotions of personal love. I work about 18 hours a day out here, and there is no rest even when you do no work, for the poverty of Asia... presses in upon you on every side... Here is a handful of rich Chinese and foreigners living in the midst of indescribable poverty which pushes its way right under their windows—and here are the big battleships of many lands riding at anchor in the river, and here are armed soldiers and marines from many foreign lands »guarding« the handful of foreigners who live in wealth. Here, in the midst of riches, poverty, a vast network of espionage, of murder, kidnapping, executions of idealists, crimes of every sort, sometimes I almost seek rest in philosophy... Always I think that I shall write one more book before I die — just one book in which I shall, many years from now, try to show what the capitalist system, with its imperialist development, has done to the human being — how it has turned him into a wolf. Only inhuman creatures who have become wolves could for a moment try to perpetuate the system that has reduced Asia to its position today. And yet the armed forces and the battleships are here for this purpose.

On June 23 she wrote to Michaelis about love:

China has done me much good. It has made me a sane woman; sane and clearheaded and hard in mind. All my bondage to Chatto has gone from me, once and forever. I recall my life with him as a frightful mess and a ghastly thing for both him and me. No man will ever get his hooks in me again. I shall have men friends and I shall now and then live with a man whom I admire intellectually and who appeals to me physically; and the basis of our union must be a broad and generous friendship. But I am now a sane woman. There is always a little tendency in me to long for the old kind of love that is senseless and dependent and cruel. But I try to analyze that out of my mind and heart. ... I hope to socialize all my emotions in that respect. But all this does not mean I am or ever will be a hardboiled woman. I can tell that by the response of the Chinese to me: I have countless friends whose devotion to me knows no limit... The thing is that 1 love the Chinese and all Asiatics, and they feel that.

As Smedley became immersed in China, correspondence and contact with most of her old friends in Germany and the United States faded away. For example, in her first letters from China to Margaret Sanger, she discussed the possibility of establishing birth control clinics in Beijing and Shanghai on Sanger's behalf, and Sanger sent seed money for a short-lived pilot project that Smedley helped organize in Beijing. By 1931, however, Smedley had come to believe that a birth control movement could never make progress in China until the country experienced a social and economic revolution, and she said so publicly in an article for The Nation. Thereafter correspondence between the two women dropped off.[23]
Smedley's break with another old friend, Emma Goldman, was more dramatic and emotional. The issue was Goldman's persistent and sweeping denunciations of Moscow and all Communist movements. In her last note to Goldman—the woman who had once been her model, and from whom she had learned so much about politics and love—Smedley argued that in China the Communists were worth supporting because they were »the only ones who offer any hope for the peasants«.  She said she did not want to see Goldman again, because »I do not want to think of you with bitterness«.[24]
When Smedley wrote to Karin Michaelis in June of 1930, she was seriously involved with a new man. He was Richard Sorge, alias Johnson, who was ostensibly a German living in Shanghai as a correspondent for the German press. But his real mission, which eventually made him one of the most intriguing figures of World War II, was rather different. His reputation today rests on his record as a master spy for the Soviet Union operating in Tokyo from 1937 to 1941. Between 1939 and 1941, in particular, Sorge and a Japanese collaborator, Ozaki Hotsumi, transmitted to Moscow high-level communications between the German and Japanese governments. Moreover, many scholars now believe that they had a significant influence on German and Japanese foreign policies because of their trusted positions as Asian experts. Both men were arrested by the Japanese in 1941 and executed in 1944. It was later alleged that Smedley was connected to the spy ring because she had introduced Ozaki to Sorge in 1931.[25]
When Sorge arrived in Shanghai, he immediately sought out Smedley. Sharing literary and intellectual interests, he and his wife had been friendly in the late 1920s with the Eislers and with Julian Gumperz. (But Smedley had not met Sorge in Germany or the Soviet Union, as some have claimed.) Except for Smedley and one or two others, Sorge avoided contact with the Shanghai radical community. As »Johnson« he was gathering military intelligence and cultivating German officers like Colonel Hermann von Kriebel, who was advising Chiang Kai-shek's armies, by exchanging information. According to Chen Hansheng, Sorge and Smedley became romantically involved soon after they met in 1930, and they spent the late spring and summer together in south China around Guangzhou.[26]
Sorge was a big, Nordic, ruggedly handsome man three years younger than Smedley. Born in Russia of a German father and a Russian mother, he had lived in Germany after the age of eleven; he had become a Communist after serving in the German army in World War I, when he was wounded three times. (Interestingly, his grandfather Friedrich Sorge was a prominent Socialist who knew Marx and Engels and, later, Samuel Gompers.) Like Smedley, Sorge had a taste for the flamboyant, a good sense of humor, and a fondness for drink. Their relationship was apparently based on mutual respect and attraction, with no strings attached. As Smedley wrote to Florence Lennon on May 28, 1930: »I'm married, child, so to speak—just sort of married, you know; but he's a he-man also, and its 50-50 all along the line, with he helping me and I him and we working together or bust, and so on; [it's] a big, broad, all-sided friendship and comradeship. I do not know how long it will last; that does not depend on us. I fear not long. But these days will be the best in my life. Never have I known such good days, never have I known such a healthy life, mentally, physically, psychically«.[27]
Smedley was impressed by Sorge's sophistication and eagerness to learn about China. She knew about his life in Germany and his war experiences, and she assumed that, like Eisler, he was really a Comintern agent.*
(* In reality Sorge's mission was to provide intelligence to the Soviet Red Army; his orders were to avoid association with foreign Comintern members or members of the Chinese Communist Party. See Chalmers Johnson, An Instance of Treason: Ozaki Hotsumi and the Sorge Spy Ring (Stanford, 1964), pp. 68, 74-75. Recently Walter Prange {Target Tokyo [New York, 1984], p. 22) and others have said that Sorge sponsored Smedley for Comintern membership—a claim that came not from Sorge himself but from his Japanese interrogators when they were questioned by MacArthur's staff after World War II.)
She introduced him to some of her Chinese friends, notably Professor Chen Hansheng. The three of them soon began meeting on a regular basis and exchanging information. Sorge became increasingly concerned about Japanese troop movements in Manchuria and their political implications for the Soviet Union, and he accompanied Chen on a trip into northwest China during the spring of 1932.
It was through Smedley that Sorge found most of the Asian contacts who gave him significant information over the next two years. The most important of these, of course, was the Japanese journalist Ozaki Hot-sumi. When Smedley introduced the two men in 1931, she knew Ozaki well, as he was already translating Daughter of Earth into Japanese. In recent years the Smedley-Ozaki-Sorge friendship in Shanghai has become part of the legend surrounding the accomplishments and romance of the later spy ring. Their relationship was even dramatized by a leading Japanese playwright, who mistakenly portrayed Ozaki as Smedley's principal lover.[28]
For two months during the winter of 1930—31, Smedley's personal crusade to stop Western imperialism led her to investigate the political situation in the Philippines. The United States had promised eventual independence with the adoption of the Jones Act in 1916. As of 1931, that promise was still to be realized. Smedley knew that public opinion in the United States was still divided on the issue. On this working holiday, Smedley researched a series of articles critical of the U.S. colonial presence in the Philippines. Using contacts suggested by her old friend Scott Nearing, she wrote about Filipinos from all walks of life, including interviews with members of the then embryonic Philippine Communist Party.[29]
After returning to Shanghai in February of 1931, Smedley was absorbed by a crisis that shook Shanghai's community of German leftists. In June, Paul and Gertrude Ruegg, known as Mr. and Mrs. Hilaire Noulens, were arrested. Allegedly, they were Comintern agents organizing a branch of the League Against Imperialism in Shanghai. (The Noulens were Swiss, but did not have valid passports.) It was an unusual move for French and British police, who, after making the arrest in the foreign concession area, turned the Noulens over to Chinese authorities as Communists. Smedley knew the Noulens because of the anti-British propaganda work they had done together with Indian nationalists and labor unions in Shanghai. Their arrest soon produced tension in Smedley's relationship with Richard Sorge. The issue was what to do about the Noulens' young son. Smedley made a point of openly helping the boy and asked friends and acquaintances to take him in. One of the persons she approached was Ruth Kuczynski, a young German Communist Party member she had met about six months earlier. When Sorge persuaded Kuczynski to refuse to take the child, on the grounds that public association with the Noulens would identify her as a Communist, Smedley was outraged. She wrote Kuczynski an angry letter accusing her of not being a true revolutionary. And she began to give up her romantic attachment to Sorge, whose affairs with other women had already made her jealous.[30]
As usual, Smedley was defiantly open about her position: she joined Chen Hansheng and Mme. Sun Yat-sen on the Noulens Defense Committee, which worked to bring international publicity to the case, to apply pressure for the couple's release. The Noulens were tried by court-martial in late 1931; both were sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1933, the Soviet Union, which had broken off relations with the Nationalist government after Chiang's purge of Communists in 1927, reestablished diplomatic relations. It may well have been because of an increasingly close relationship between Chiang and Moscow that the Noulens were released from prison and deported in September 1937.[31]
Well over a year before she became involved in the Noulens' defense, Smedley had begun associating with members of an underground literary movement—writers who rejected the romanticism of literati figures like patrician Xu Zhimo (known as »the Chinese Shelley«). For Smedley, the key figure in this process was Mao Dun, probably China's leading novelist at the time. As she and Mao Dun worked on translations of literary works in 1930, she began to see that a revolution was taking place in Chinese arts, drama, and literature. Socialist-oriented experimentation was everywhere—and so was Guomindang censorship and repression. The struggles Smedley described in a series of pioneering articles on the arts were intense, dangerous, and creative.[32]
Smedley's excitement and desire to help were irrepressible. In 1980 Mao Dun recalled:

Knowing her was as if I had seen a comet shooting loftily and leisurely across the sky and then suddenly it disappeared. Agnes Smedley was an unforgettable person, whether you liked her or not, and we Chinese liked her very much. She was the most thorough-going internationalist I have ever met. There also was absolutely no smack of feudalism in her. And to us Chinese, this is so rare a quality that it made her just that more attractive. She radiated a kind of nobility that is unforgettable—a mixture of incisiveness (at times akin to abrasiveness), alienation from worldliness (at times akin to novelty-seeking), and hatred for evil (at times akin to a lack of forbearance), as well as devotion to others (at times akin to self-denial).[33]

It was through Mao Dun that Smedley met the man who since the May Fourth Movement of 1919 had been at the center of the movement for change in the arts: the author and critic Lu Xun.
As an essayist, poet, and short-story writer, by 1929 Lu Xun had won recognition as China's finest living writer. During the 1920s he had wandered from north to south and finally settled in Shanghai, where he married and began to raise a family. He lived in the International Settlement area, down a side lane in a European-style row house. Today his home is a museum, furnished just as it was in the early 1930s. With the late afternoon sun filtering through the curtains of the second-floor study, one can easily imagine Lu Xun and Smedley sitting in the rattan chairs by the front window, discussing literature and politics. From this study, Lu Xun presided over the Shanghai literary scene—encouraging the young, lashing out at Guomindang repression, and urging unity within the literary left. Lu Xun was steadfastly internationalist in outlook; he had studied in Japan and had translated major German and Russian works (his favorite author was Maxim Gorky).
Smedley first met Lu Xun at his home in December of 1929. Finding that they could communicate in German, the two quickly became friends. Lu Xun had been reading Daughter of Earth in German, and he eventually found a translator and publisher for a Chinese edition. The editor of a literary journal, he got Smedley into print, for the first time in Chinese, by publishing an article of hers on conditions in rural China.[34] For her part, Smedley introduced Lu Xun to the graphic work of her Berlin friend Kathe Kollwitz, and she soon became an intermediary for correspondence between the two of them. It is possible that she also introduced Lu Xun to the work of the German Socialist cartoonist George Grosz.[35]
During the spring and summer of 1930, Smedley and Lu Xun worked with the organizers of a new League of Left Wing Writers. The League was an umbrella organization for young writers who accepted a common set of explicitly revolutionary political principles and agreed to work in cities like Shanghai as »cultural guerrillas«,  counterparts to the guerrilla fighters in the countryside. Smedley concentrated on publicizing the work of the League in Europe, India, Soviet Russia, and North America.
Within a year, her association with Lu Xun had enabled Smedley to meet most of the prominent new writers in Shanghai, and in 1930 she wrote several of the first articles in a Western language on the new social realist movement in Chinese art and literature. Predictably, her concern was more political than esthetic. She applauded the discipline and political commitment of these young Chinese intellectuals. Compared to their Indian counterparts, she wrote, they were less troubled by factionalism and had a record of action and sacrifice. The majority were not what she and Lu Xun called »salon Socialists«,  a class more common in Europe, North America, and India.[36]
Smedley's idealistic devotion to her Chinese mentor Lu Xun was reminiscent of her earlier admiration of the veteran Indian nationalist Lajpat Rai. On September 7, 1930, Smedley and the League of Left Wing Writers put on a fiftieth-birthday party for Lu Xun at a Dutch-Indonesian restaurant in the French concession area. Her account of that evening (in Battle Hymn of China, pp. 77—83) brings to life the tense political atmosphere and the powerful personal and cultural aspirations Smedley shared with her friends in Shanghai

On the afternoon of the birthday celebration I stood with my two friends at the garden gate of a small Dutch restaurant in the French concession. From our position we had a clear view of the long street by which the guests would come. [They were on the lookout for police and Guomindang informers.] Lu Xun, accompanied by his wife and small son, arrived early... He was short and frail, and wore a cream-colored silk gown and soft Chinese shoes. He was bareheaded and his close-cropped hair stood up like a brush. In structure his face was like that of an average Chinese, yet it remains in my memory as the most eloquent face I have ever seen. A kind of living intelligence and awareness streamed from it. His manner, speech, and his every gesture radiated the indefinable of a perfectly integrated personality. I suddenly felt as awkward and ungracious as a clod...
As the guests went by, my two friends explained that they included writers, artists, professors, students, actors, reporters, research scholars, and even two patricians. This last pair came not because they shared Lu Xun's convictions, but to honor his integrity, courage, and scholarship.
It was a motley and exciting gathering—pioneers in an intellectual revolution. One group, poorly dressed and apparently half-starved, was pointed out as representing a new [theater group] trying to edge in social dramas between Wilde's Salome and Lady Windermere's Fan. A more prosperous-looking group proved to be Fudan University students led by Professor Hong Shen. They had produced some of Ibsen's plays and one or two written by their professor, who was also a director of one of the first Chinese motion picture companies. A third dramatic group was made up of young leftist actors, writers, and translators who had produced plays by Romain Rolland, Upton Sinclair, Gorky, and Remarque. Much later they produced Carmen, were raided by police after the third performance, arrested, and closed down. Detectives in the audience had not liked the last scene, in which Don Jose stabbed Carmen to death: as Carmen hurled her ring at her cast-off lover, she uttered words that reminded them of the split between the Communists and the Guomindang.
From my place at the gate I now saw a number of people approaching. One tall, thin young man walked rapidly and kept glancing behind him; he was clearly a student, and as he passed, my friends whispered that he was editor of the Shanghai Bao, an underground Communist paper which conducted a kind of journalistic guerrilla warfare in the city. Shortly after came one whose foreign suit was wrinkled and whose hair was wild and disheveled. He had just come from months in prison. He had been suspected of representing the Chinese Red Aid; the charge had been true, but money had proved stronger. His family had spent a fortune bribing his captors [to release him].
When darkness began to fall, half of the guests left. Others took our place as sentries and we went inside the restaurant with the other guests.
After the dinner, speeches began and one of my friends translated for me. The Dutch restaurant owner understood no Chinese, so he did not worry us, but the Chinese waiters stood listening intently. When the man with the wild hair made a report on prison conditions, we watched every move of the servants. After him came the editor of the Shanghai Bao, giving the first factual report I had so far heard on the rise of the Red Army and on the »harvest uprisings« of peasants who had fought the landlords and then poured into the Red Army like rivulets into an ever-broadening river.
A short, heavy-set young woman with bobbed hair began to tell of the need for developing proletarian literature. She ended her address by appealing to Lu Xun to become the protector and »master« of new League of Left Writers and League of Left Artists, the initial groups which later became the Chinese Cultural Federation.
Throughout, Lu Xun listened carefully, promptly turning his attention to new speakers, his forefinger all the while tracing the edge of his teacup. When all had finished, he rose and began to talk quietly, telling a story of the half-century of intellectual turmoil which had been his life—the story of China uprooted...
He was now asked, he said, to lead a movement of proletarian literature, and some of his young friends were urging him to become a proletarian writer. It would be childish to pretend that he was a proletarian writer. His roots were in the village, in peasant and scholarly life. Nor did he believe that Chinese intellectual youth, with no experience of the life, hopes, and sufferings of workers and peasants, could—as yet—produce proletarian literature. Creative writing must spring from experience, not theory.
Despite this, he would continue to place the best of Western literature and art before Chinese youth. He was willing to help guide youth, or, as they requested, to be their master. But protect them? Who could do that under a regime which called even the mildest social literature criminal? As »master«,  he urged educated youth to share the life of the workers and peasants, and draw their material from life, but [to] study Western social literature and art for form...
[Lu Xun] often spoke to me of his plans for a historical novel based on his life, but the social reaction in which his country wallowed seemed to leave no time for this. So deep was his hatred of »the slaughter of the innocents« and the violation of men's rights that after a while he was using his pen only as a weapon—a veritable dagger it was—of political criticism.
Of all Chinese writers, he seemed the most intricately linked with Chinese history, literature, and culture. It was almost impossible to translate into English some of his »political criticism« because, unable to attack reaction openly, his writings were a mosaic of allusions to personalities, events, and ideas of the darkest periods of China's past. Every educated Chinese knew that he was comparing present tyranny with that of the past. Through these political criticisms ran rich streams of both Chinese and Western culture, couched in a style as fine as an etching.* He introduced literary magazine after literary magazine to the public, only to see each suppressed. These introductions, compact and chaste, were flown like proud banners. To him freedom of thought and expression was the essence of human achievement. So distinctive was his style that pseudonyms failed to shield him, and censors began to mutilate his articles until they often appeared senseless. Writers, editors, and artists associated with him began to disappear without trace; only his age and eminence protected him from arrest.

(* Smedley liked to call Lu Xun the Voltaire of the Chinese revolution, and certainly his writing had an erudition and polish that made it quite different from her own, which was bluntly emotional and verged on the melodramatic.

On the night of February 7, 1931, five leading members of the League of Left Wing Writers, including the editor of the Shanghai Bao, were summarily executed by Guomindang authorities. Alarmed, Smedley smuggled the writer Ding Ling, the wife of one of the executed men, out of Shanghai. Lu Xun's answer was an article entitled »Present Conditions of Literature and Art in Darkest China«,  which he asked Smedley to translate and have published abroad. Smedley consulted with Mao Dun and others and decided to wait, because she genuinely feared that publishing it would lead to Lu Xun's arrest and execution. Instead, she and Mao Dun persuaded Lu Xun to write an appeal for help from the League which would be less of a direct challenge to the Guomindang. The two of them then translated the letter and arranged for it to be hand-carried to New York, Berlin, Moscow, and elsewhere. In the United States, this appeal appeared in the June, 1931, issue of New Masses, and it had the desired effect. Hundreds of letters and telegrams of protest poured into Guomindang headquarters from writers and artists around the world.[37]
Smedley had met Mme. Sun Yat-sen in Moscow in November of when she was on her way to China. In 1929 the two women met again in Shanghai, and within a year Smedley was helping Mme. Sun with correspondence and writing her speeches, especially in regard to the League Against Imperialism. (Mme. Sun was an executive officer of the League, and Smedley was personally acquainted with some of its leading figures, such as Nehru and Roger Baldwin.) By September of Smedley felt free to write on the flyleaf of a copy of Daughter of Earth, »To Mme. Sun Yat-sen, whom I respect and love without reserve as a revolutionary who keeps the faith«.
Mme. Sun, although related to many of the Guomindang leaders, steadfastly refused to join the Guomindang and chose instead to oppose the Nanjing government and support a series of left-of-center causes. As with Lu Xun and Smedley, it was impossible for the Guomindang to arrest or assassinate her because of her international reputation, and of course she was nationally respected as Sun Yat-sen's widow. But she was under constant surveillance by Guomindang police, and she was made to watch as those around her disappeared into prison or fell to the assassin's bullet. By 1931 Smedley was working so closely with Mme. Sun on various projects that many considered her to be an official speech-writer and aide. The two women collaborated publicly, for example, at the time of the Noulens affair, forming an international defense committee with Chen Hansheng and others to publicize the case and pressure the Guomindang for the couple's release.[38]
In September of 1931, Japan's Kwantung Army, acting on the pretext that the Chinese had sabotaged the South Manchurian Railroad, drove the Chinese army of warlord Zhang Xueliang out of Manchuria. In the Manchurian Incident, as it quickly became known, the Japanese army had boldly formulated foreign policy on its own, without the consent of civilian officials in Tokyo, and this shocked even Smedley's Japanese journalist friend Ozaki Hotsumi. Throughout the autumn of 1931, Smedley, Ozaki, and Sorge continued to trade information from various sources on the latest Japanese moves and Chinese reactions. It was probably concern with the new political situation at home that prompted Ozaki to return to Japan in January of 1932. He left just in time.[39]
On January 30, 1932, hoping to frighten the Chinese into accepting their takeover of Manchuria, the Japanese launched a naval landing against the Chinese quarter of Shanghai. They were met by the Chinese Nineteenth Route Army, reinforced by divisions of students and regular soldiers from Nanjing. Finding the resistance stronger than they had expected, the Japanese resorted to a massive aerial bombardment of the old city—the first large-scale bombing of a civilian population in history. A week of bloody house-to-house combat followed, until the Chinese withdrew to a defensive perimeter around Shanghai. A truce was signed on May 5, ending what is now called the Shanghai Incident of February, 1932. Essentially a Japanese victory, the truce created a large demilitarized zone in and around Shanghai in which Chinese troops were not allowed. It also provoked a real upsurge in Chinese nationalism. From this point on, popular impatience and anger with the impotence of the Nanjing government grew steadily. It eventually led to the Xi'an kidnapping of Chiang Kai-shek in 1936, as well as the formation of a united front with the Communists, and declaration of war on Japan in 1937.
To Smedley, the Shanghai Incident — or war, as she called it — meant two things. First, it reinforced her conviction that Japan was the chief imperialist menace in the Far East, the enemy against whom all should unite. In her view, the Japanese threat had become far more important than the British or the civil war between the Guomindang and the Chinese Communists. This put her at odds with the mainstream Comintern view and the Chinese Communist Party line, which gave top priority to protecting the Soviet Union and engaging in class struggles within China against Chiang Kai-shek. Second, the Shanghai Incident gave Smedley her first opportunity to work as a war correspondent, and she made the most of it. Hitching rides back and forth between the battle lines, she wrote extensively on Japanese and Chinese tactics, the human suffering caused by the bombing, and the heroics of the Nineteenth Route Army and its civilian supporters.[40] At one point the Japanese bombed the area where Lu Xun lived. Smedley managed to sneak through the Japanese barricades and rushed in panic to his home, which was badly damaged. As she wrote in Battle Hymn of China: »I hammered on the doors and shouted in English and German, but no one answered. Marooned in their homes, many Chinese refused to respond to anyone, and some of them died of hunger rather than open their doors... Only when the [Shanghai] war was over did I learn that Lu Xun and his family had been rescued and hidden by Japanese friends« (p. 107).
Just before the Japanese struck Shanghai, Smedley was dismissed by the Frankfurter Zeitung; there had been decisive changes in the political climate in Germany, and Guomindang-leaning intellectuals such as Hu Shi had made complaints about her to the German Embassy. Thus her reports on the Shanghai Incident appeared in a number of Indian and American journals, but not in German publications.[41]
During 1932 Smedley was also putting together a book of reworked old and new pieces, Chinese Destinies (1933), and starting a new work on the Jiangxi Soviet, China's Red Army Marches (1934). Also in that year she and Chen Hansheng became heavily involved in a short-lived new group, the China League for Civil Rights, which was dedicated to curbing the harassment and persecution of intellectuals.[42]
As Smedley's political activities expanded, her friendly contacts with fellow American journalists narrowed to a few leftists, such as Harold Isaacs and Frank Glass. Isaacs was a wealthy young New Yorker who had come to China at the age of twenty, right after graduating from Columbia University. In search of adventure, he first worked for the Chinese-owned, Guomindang-controlled English-language press in Shanghai. Eventually he fell under the influence of Smedley and Frank Glass, an older South African journalist who was a fervent Trotskyist with a committed Chinese following. After a trip into the interior with Glass, he experienced something like a conversion; he returned a committed leftist, with increasing Trotskyist tendencies. Early in 1932, with encouragement from Glass, Smedley, and Mme. Sun, Isaacs founded the China Forum, an English-language weekly that expressed views close to those of the Chinese Communists. Smedley, Chen Hansheng, Frank Glass, George Kennedy, and others contributed heavily to it with anonymous articles, including the first translations of several short stories by Lu Xun and other members of the League of Left Wing Writers. The China Forum's most noticed production, however, was Five Years of Kuo-mintang Reaction (May 1932), a detailed book-length indictment of Guomindang rule that Smedley and Isaacs co-edited. It immediately attracted censorship and created consternation in Shanghai's official foreign circles.[43]
On occasional trips to Beijing, Smedley kept in touch with Edgar Snow, who in mid-1932 had moved north to teach at Yenching University. She also visited a young American historian, John K. Fairbank, and his artist wife Wilma, who had appeared in Shanghai in 1932 with a letter of introduction from the widow of Fairbank's uncle and Smedley's lawyer, Gilbert Roe. In December, 1932, Smedley stayed for a month with the young couple in Beijing while on an organizing mission for the League for Civil Rights, and afterward she used them as a maildrop for Beijing members of the League.[44]
Not surprisingly, Smedley's problems with the Guomindang-con-trolled English and Chinese press led to vicious personal attacks on her morals as well as her politics—a tactic to which she was hardened by now. The nadir was reached in a 1933 Guomindang dispatch which claimed that on a visit to the Jiangxi Soviet base, she had brought cases of whiskey with her and had stood nude before a mass rally, singing the Internationale.[45]
In fact, although she certainly wanted to, Smedley never managed to visit the Jiangxi Soviet, where between 1929 and 1934 Mao Zedong and Zhu De were establishing a base and attempting to recoup the declining fortunes of the Chinese Communist Party. But beginning in 1932 she did shelter many refugees from Jiangxi, hiding their documents, obtaining medical treatment for them, and questioning them thoroughly. Her most prominent visitors were two Red Army commanders, Zhou Jianping, who was killed in battle in 1938, and Chen Geng, who would become China's senior military adviser to Vietnam in the 1950s. From the materials she collected in this fashion, Smedley began to write the first articles in a Western language about life in the liberated Jiangxi area. Moreover, it was partly through Smedley that Otto Braun made contact with the Jiangxi Soviet and arranged to go there as Moscow's permanent military representative and adviser. Finally, intelligence about her Jiangxi connection stimulated even tighter surveillance by Guomindang and British police, and Smedley began making frequent changes of address within the French concession. At one point Glass and Isaacs took turns sleeping on Smedley's front porch to protect her from the Guomindang thugs she thought were lurking in the shadows across the street, waiting for a chance to break in.[46]
In January of 1933, Richard Sorge left Shanghai for Moscow and Germany. The scene of his subsequent career and rendezvous with Ozaki Hotsumi would be Japan. Smedley, who apparently saw much less of Sorge in 1932, would never see him again.[47] In February, Smedley and Mme. Sun played host to George Bernard Shaw, then on a whirlwind tour of the Far East. When introduced to Lu Xun, Shaw quipped: »They call you the Gorky of China, but you are more handsome than Gorky«.  »Oh«,  replied Lu Xun with a smile, »As I grow older I will become still more handsome«.  In a now-famous photograph of Shaw with Lu Xun and other luminaries in Mme. Sun's garden, Smedley appears tense and depressed.[48]
Indeed, by the early spring of 1933 Smedley was exhausted and anxious. Many of her friends had departed, and Professor Chen Hansheng was about to leave for Japan. It was now evident that she could not soon visit the Jiangxi Soviet areas. She was also depressed about having to fire her male secretary and translator, Feng Da, whom she suspected (correctly, as it turned out) of having ties to the Guomindang; Feng's recent marriage to her friend the left-wing writer and activist Ding Ling worried her greatly.[49] Smedley's principal concern, however, was with finishing her book on the Jiangxi Soviet. At this time, she was one of the few Westerners conversant with developments there who also sensed both the long-term significance of the Chinese Communists' success in organizing peasants and the growing seriousness of Guomindang military campaigns against it. Her mission, as she saw it, was to get the full story out as soon as possible, but the distractions and pressures of her life in Shanghai were making this difficult. Thus when a publisher in Moscow offered her an advance for the book, she accepted quickly and left in May of 1933 to finish writing it in the Soviet Union.