Feature: A former British journalist's deep bond with China

Source: Xinhua| 2019-10-19 17:25:29|Editor: mingmei
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Neville Maxwell (R) watches the unveiling ceremony of a book corner named after him in China via a video call at his home near Canberra, Australia, June 19, 2019. The Maxwell Book Corner in the China Institute of International Studies was unveiled in June. (Xinhua/Pan Xiangyue)

by Bai Xu, Pan Xiangyue and Zhou Zihan

CANBERRA, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- Through a video call, 93-year-old Neville Maxwell was a little relieved of his regret for not being able to attend the unveiling ceremony of a book corner named after him in China in June this year.

Watching his son talking with Chinese experts in Beijing on his behalf, Maxwell, sitting before a screen at home in Australia, reminisced about his meeting with late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai nearly 50 years ago.

"He came down and walked towards our table," recalled the man. His memories had faded, but he could still remember Premier Zhou's acknowledgement of his work.

The book, "India's China War," revealed the truth and benefited China, Zhou said, then offering a toast of Maotai, a Chinese spirit, to him.

On Sept. 23, Maxwell, a correspondent of the British newspaper The Times in India when the Sino-Indian border conflict broke out in 1962, passed away.

"His works and his friendship with the Chinese people will always be remembered," said Cheng Jingye, Chinese ambassador to Australia, when attending his commemorative ceremony last week.


When covering the Sino-Indian border conflict, like many Western journalists, Maxwell initially took a biased perspective.

"(The report) was conducted from India, and to large extent, from an Indian perspective, so that it left a considerable bias in my mind, which had to be corrected by further study," Maxwell told Xinhua in an interview earlier this year.

His view began to change later when he took a sabbatical to dig deeper into the conflict.

After conducting in-depth studies, he published his influential book, "India's China War," in 1970, which helped clear up some Western countries' misconceptions about the conflict.

The book had such a huge influence that, according to Maxwell, in 1971 when then U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger visited China, he said that the book showed him that he could "do business" with the Chinese people.

In 1972, Maxwell went to cover then Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's visit to China, where he met Premier Zhou when attending a banquet.

"So that was how my personal contact with China and learning about China began," he told Xinhua.

"I returned repeatedly to China in the 1970s, going to different areas for study and often meeting with ... leading members of the Chinese government," he said.

In his memory, Beijing was still a "rural city" where "the traffic was mostly bicycles, with very few private cars."

"All of that is far in the past now, but it is an essential chapter of Chinese history, which I saw in its formative stage as a great privilege. (It is) something I treasure in my memory," he said emotionally.


As Maxwell grew older, he had fewer opportunities to visit China. But he had always concerned himself with the development of the country.

Before the 70th anniversary of the founding of New China, Maxwell decided to donate his books and maps to China.

When the Maxwell Book Corner in the China Institute of International Studies was unveiled in June, he was too old and fragile to make the trip to Beijing.

On behalf of him, Maxwell's son attended the unveiling ceremony. The old man told Xinhua that his son "had a most enjoyable time, was well looked after and amazed by the progress he saw."

Maxwell sat in his home in Australia, participating in the seminar via video chat. Tired as he was, he watched the meeting attentively from the beginning till the end.

At his commemorative ceremony lask week, Cheng said the book, "India's China War," would soon be published in China.

"During the past 70 years, China has made great progress, to which many international friends made contributions," Cheng said. "Maxwell is one of them."