All things old China - books, anecdotes, stories, podcasts, factoids & ramblings from the author Paul French

William Greener’s A Secret Agent in Port Arthur, 1905

Posted: September 15th, 2022 | No Comments »

I’m afraid I don’t know much about William Greener except he rather offered himself up to the newspapers as an expert on all things China in the early 1900s and certainly hinted at his connections with British Intelligence. He regularly appears commenting on the work of missionaries in China, the comforts of the Trans-Siberian Express and does seem to have been in northern China during the start of the Russo-Japanese War. It is claimed Greener was an employee of the London Times who got to Port Arthur (Lushun) around February 1904. He was apparently expelled from Port Arthur and moved to nearby Newchwang (Yingkou). Some reviewers considered him unreliable and the Times did receive some criticism for contining to run his pieces, often considered inaccurate and so stopped using him.

But, much of this criticism cvame from those Greener didn’t think much of and writes about in his book – lazy and ineffecutal British diplomats (very often the case in China at the time) and corrupt US Consuls (which annoyed Washington and US newspapers but was true and later led to several sensational trials of corrupt US Consuls in China).

So while A Secret Agent in Port Arthur seems at the outset a little sensationalist, a mix of excited reportage and sub-John Buchan shenanigans, it may actually be a more accurate account than the more censored newspaper articles.

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