BEIJING — Rewi Alley, a New Zealander who came to China in 1927 and for 60 years aided the Communist rebels while praising them with his prose, has died at age 90 in China.
The official Xinhua News Agency reported that Alley died Sunday after suffering a stroke.
Best known for his 34 nonfiction works praising the Communist revolution, Alley also published 18 collections of his own poems and translated 11 volumes of Chinese poetry.
The one-sentence Xinhua report on Alley's death described him as a "noted New Zealand social activist and the Chinese people's old friend," a phrase used for foreigners who devote themselves to the revolution. It did not say if he died at home or in a hospital, and did not announce funeral plans.
Like many of the "old friends" of China, Alley came under attack during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, when everything foreign was suspect. He spent his last years quietly in Beijing, making few public appearances.
During China's civil war between Communist and Nationalist forces in the 1930s and '40s, Alley aided the Communist underground by supplying guerrilla fighters with grain and medical supplies.
In the course of the war he ran more than 2,000 small cooperative factories. In 1944, he set up a technical school in northwestern China's impoverished Gansu province, where he lived for 10 years.
In 1985, Alley was made an honorary citizen of Gansu. Despite recognition and praise from the nation's top leaders, he never received Chinese citizenship.
On his 90th birthday Dec. 2, Communist Party chief Zhao Ziyang and Li Peng, the acting premier, were shown on national television visiting Alley's home in Beijing.
Alley was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1897, the son of a teacher. He briefly tried sheep ranching before setting out for Shanghai in 1927, attracted by reports of the activities of the 6-year-old Chinese Communist Party.
He became a good friend of fellow China "old friend" Anna Louise Strong, an American who wrote books in praise of the revolution and who died in 1970 after spending most of her life in China.