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Alan Winnington

Alan Winnington

The author with recently released slaves in Yunnan Province, 1957

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Alan Winnington, who was born in 1910, survived the Great Depression as an amateur artist, butcher's assistant and coin-counterfeiter until he found a steady job with a Fleet Street photo agency. During the Second World War he was chief sub-editor at the Daily Worker, where he worked closely with Claud Cockburn, the foreign editor, and the legendary newspaper designer Allen Hutt. In 1947 he travelled clandestinely to China in order to cover the final stages of the civil war and then, after entering Beijing with the People's Liberation Army, helped to establish a foreign-language news agency there.

When the Korean War broke out in 1950, Winnington reported on the conflict from the northern side and, accused of treason, was deprived of his British passport. On his return to Beijing, he and his family lived in the old city rather than in a special hostel for foreigners and, as the murderous folly of Maoism became ever clearer, his fondness and respect for the Chinese people grew in tandem with his suspicion and dislike of their leaders.

Horrified by the Great Leap Forward and Chinese policy in Tibet, Winnington understood earlier than many foreign observers the disastrous nature of the course on which China had embarked, and left the country in 1960. Moving to Berlin, he continued to work as a journalist while also writing thrillers and children's books in both English and German, as well as a highly acclaimed autobiography, Breakfast with Mao: Memoirs of a Foreign Correspondent. He died in 1983.

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