Seymour Topping, Former Times Journalist and Eyewitness to History, Dies at 98

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tags: Cold War, China, journalism, Chinese revolution

Seymour Topping, who chronicled the rise of China and the Cold War in Europe and Asia as a correspondent, shaped the crowning years of print journalism as an editor of The New York Times, and led the charge into the internet age in the classrooms of Columbia University, died on Sunday in White Plains, N.Y. He was 98.

His death, at White Plains Hospital, followed a stroke he suffered late last month, his daughter Robin Topping said.

In a peasant hut in Central China, where he was being held prisoner, Mr. Topping, as a young correspondent, listened all night to the thundering artillery. It ended at dawn on Jan. 7, 1949. As he looked up into the rifle muzzle of a People’s Liberation Army soldier, he wondered what the silence portended. As he would soon write, it was the end of China’s civil war, the triumph of Mao Zedong over the Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai-shek.

Sixty years later — after a career as a correspondent for wire services and The Times; as foreign news editor and managing editor of the newspaper, subordinate only to the powerful executive editor A.M. Rosenthal; as a teacher and author of four books; and as one of America’s most respected journalists — Mr. Topping recalled that artillery silence as a defining moment in history.

“Mao’s victory in the Battle of the Huai-Hai marked the onset of an era in which East Asia would be engulfed in war, revolution, and genocide,” he wrote in a memoir, “On the Front Lines of the Cold War” (2010). “Tens of millions would die in China, Korea, Indochina and Indonesia in wars, political purges and sectarian violence.”

For Mr. Topping, known universally to colleagues as Top, the story was always about more than the day’s news developments, intriguing as they might be. It was about their historical significance, too.


Read entire article at New York Times

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