The twin subjects of China and Japan dominated the 39 years that John Roderick spent as an AP correspondent. When Americans were barred from the People’s Republic, he was based in Tokyo, becoming acknowledged as the No. 1 China watcher for the Associated Press. He had begun building his firsthand knowledge in 1944 when he went to Nationalist-held west China. In the early postwar years, he hoped to spend his career in China.
Roderick’s life has elements of a gripping adventure story. He was 13 and caddying part time at a Maine golf course when he first encountered China. He said: “One of the players had just returned from a visit to Shanghai. He showed me photographs of young Chinese being beheaded. They were executed by the Nationalist forces of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in the Shanghai massacre of 1927. 18 years later, I met the most famous of the survivors of that massacre, Zhou Enlai, who became foreign minister and premier of the People’s Republic.”