It's Mr Jones!

The film - 'Mr Jones' - came out in 2019, actor James Norton plays the part of the brave journalist, Gareth Jones – (Norton played the enigmatic Stephen Ward in BBC TV’s series ‘The Trial of Christine Keeler’)

When looking at the history surrounding the time my Aunt Marian was in China my cousins gave me old records including this newspaper cutting she had kept - it shows Chiang Kai Shek with 'The Young Marshall' (Chang Hsueh-liang) - a warlord from Manchuria, who not only assisted the Nationalist cause in the Civil War but also influenced Chiang Kai Shek to ‘join with’ the Communists to fight the Japanese threat before and during WW2.

I discovered this interview (quoted below) which took place in 1935 after the part of the story covered in the film, Gareth Jones had been banned from Russia and was now travelling in the Far East.


BOOK EXTRACT  ‘… In 1934 the Communists walked 6,000 miles to China’s desolate northwest country, crossing deep gorges, mountain ranges and swamps and establishing a guerrilla base at Yan’an in Shaanxi Province. Many thousands died during what was known as ‘The Long March’. Though small in number after this exhausting and terrifying journey, the survivors grew in strength and reorganized themselves under Mao Tse-tung.   An interview between a journalist Gareth Jones and the Young Marshall took place in Hankow on June 20th 1935. 

It gives a glimpse of the plans the Nationalists had at that time and their attitude to the Communists, and when asked about Japan Chang declined to answer.   

GARETH JONES– “The anti-Communist fights have been a great success and have been applauded.”     THE YOUNG MARSHALL– “The Communists are bandits.  We have broken the main body. Some of them remain in bandit gangs scattered here and there. We have put 7000 Communists into reformation.  They are however very desperate for they fight for their lives. They are afraid of returning to their villages for there the villagers who know them would kill them.  Thus we have to settle them far away.  Our grip over Szechuan will increase as time goes on.  Not only have we our military force there, but also they are spreading their ideas of unification. In Kivenchow and Yunnan it is the same.”     JONES – “In Canton there is opposition to unification.  Will the building of roads and the Hankow and Canton railway be a help to unification?"     MARSHALL – “Yes, it will mean the spread of ideas also, and a cultural link with the south.”     JONES – “What means have you in mind to extend the grip of the Central Government to Szechuan?”     MARSHALL – “We are going to build a railway south of the Yangtze, through Changsha to Kweichow and then up to Szechuan.  We are going to build motor roads.”   JONES– “What are you doing that the south shall be military minded?  I was in Changsha and the youngsters said that they wished to enter military institutes in order to fight Japan.”  (This tickled the Marshall and he seemed pleased.)     MARSHALL “We believe in stress upon military training in order to strengthen the character of the young Chinese in general education.”      JONES -“Has the Japanese aggression made any change in the policy of Central Government ,i.e. of co-operation towards the Japanese?”     (Obviously a brick, rather embarrassed Marshall replies coldly in Chinese and Consul translates) “I could reply, but that is a question on which I would rather not speak.” (Silence, then laughter.)    JONES – “Has the Nanking Government any plans for state industry?  In every country in the Far East I have seen advances of State Socialism.”       MARSHALL – “We have the National Economic Council which is going to consider plans for new industries, including State Industries.”      JONES – “Do you lay great stress on aviation?”      MARSHALL –  “Yes, there will be a new route to Szechuan.  My second son is going to be an aviator and is exceedingly keen and will have long years of training.  I have my own aeroplane and I am keen on flying.(Ford Monoplane)”      JONES - “Mr Matsuoka said that China would in this century be filled either with Bolshevism from Russia or with the spirit of Japonism. What do you think of that?"      MARSHALL– (with scorn) – “Do you think that we, a nation with 4,000 years, will disappear in such a short period as a century?.”       

During the year following this interview Chang Hsueh-liang felt driven to take drastic action and kidnapped Chiang Kai-shek, saying he wanted to persuade him to join with the Communists to resist the Japanese invasion. This was known as the Xi’an Incident and is regarded as a decisive moment in Chinese history.’  



I also discovered more when getting material together for a talk entitled SCARY AND STARTLING - discoveries about history and my family’s escape from China (details on www.speakernet.co.uk)

WHEN PREPARING THE TALK I DISCOVERED -  Gareth Jones was shot dead soon after this interview (quoted above) took place (it is not known who shot him) – in August 1935 in the London Evening Standard Lloyd George paid tribute to Gareth Jones –

“That part of the world is a cauldron of conflicting intrigue and one or other interests concerned probably knew that Mr Gareth Jones knew too much of what was going on …He had a passion for finding out what was happening in foreign lands wherever there was trouble, and in pursuit of his investigations he shrank from no risk…I had always been afraid that he would take one risk too many…”

At this time my Aunt Marian must have been working somewhere in the Chinese countryside, this old photo survives from those years