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' ... William Henry Donald was known as Donald of China, a man of mystery, trusted and powerful adviser to various leaders from Sun Yat-sen to Chiang Kai-shek, brilliant newspaperman and, as far as the Japanese were concerned, "the evil spirit of China." '

[Extract from a long obituary published in The New York Times, November 9, 1946]


Welcome to Don - a site with a twofold purpose.

Firstly, Don is a personal dedication to the remarkable Australian, W. H. Donald (1875-1946), arguably the most powerful foreign adviser in China during the 1930s. By extension, it is a story of China itself in the first half of the 20th century albeit through a Western prism or "Donald view".

Secondly, it describes projects in operation or in the pipeline since 1994 by author/producer Frank Bren. They comprise 2 books, a play and 2 films, all for the time being called Don.

But no website can or should be an encyclopedia. For those interested in a more in-depth exploration of China and the "Far East", circa 1900-50, a bibliography [see SCHOLARLY] will list a selection of books (mostly contemporary), archives and other sites through which to build your own "encyclopedia".

That page, now "in development",  will offer information on:

    "Spy" files - declassified documents accessible to researchers, professional or otherwise

    global bookshops, each with a range of hard-to-get books, especially on Asia, published before 1950

    more recent books of interest (to the writer anyway)

    special archives, not necessarily "on-line"

    other matters in a highly updateable section.

The writer welcomes suggestions on websites and other sources that could usefully be included (with permission where necessary) in SCHOLARLY . Email address: .

Don WHO?!!

A good question, and H. B. Elliston, later a Pulitzer Prize-winning editor of The Washington Post, answered it thus in 1938:

    " '... then Donald arrived' ...The phrase ... is a recurrent motif in the turbulent history of the Celestial Republic. In every national convulsion since 1911, Donald has arrived on the dot, untying some snarl...... ."* 

*["China's No. 1 White Boy" ... cover feature of
The Saturday Evening Post, March 19, 1938]


"China's No. 1 White Boy" ...

Don highlights one of China's most dramatic eras through the eyes and actions of WILLIAM HENRY DONALD, the Australian who became one of the most powerful Western advisers ever drawn into the inner sanctum of Chinese government.

It was an American, Earl Albert Selle, who wrote the first published biography of Mr. Donald. Mr. Selle's Donald of China (Harper, N.Y. // Invincible Press, Sydney) appeared in early 1948 following interviews with his subject in 1945. In a press interview, Mr. Selle described Donald as "the first white man since Marco Polo to enjoy the confidence of China's rulers."

Like Marco Polo, Donald was one of the most extraordinary adventurers of his time. Born in Lithgow, New South Wales, he became a newspaperman in Bathurst, Sydney and Melbourne before someone headhunted him for the Hong Kong daily, China Mail. Arriving in HK in May 1903, he was soon the Managing Editor of China Mail as he strengthened its coverage of events in mainland China. Thus began his "Chinese life", culminating in a state funeral in Shanghai on November 10, 1946.  See A CHINESE LIFE.

Don Who?! Pages 1 - 2


HomeDon Who?!World views DonA Chinese life ...Don - the BookPlay/MovieDeath in ShanghaiScholarlyChinese researchOn the AuthorTOPPersonals 


W. H. Donald
1875 - 1946HomeDon Who?!World views DonA Chinese life ...Don - the BookPlay/MovieDeath in ShanghaiScholarlyChinese researchOn the AuthorPersonals 


Copyright, Frank Bren 2001. Photographs of Mr. Donald and friends are reproduced by kind permission of the Donald family (Australia) and Ansie Lee Sperry (USA). For all enquiries, please contact the Manager via . Oh, and many thanks for visiting this site.