Bland, John Otway Percy (1863–1945), administrator, journalist and travel writer, was born 15 November 1863 in Woodbank, Whiteabbey, Co. Antrim, second son of Maj.-gen. Edward Loftus Bland and Emma Frances Bland (née Franks) of Jerpoint, Co. Kilkenny. Educated in Switzerland and Victoria College, Jersey, he went on to attend TCD, but left without graduating (1893) on being offered a position by Sir Robert Hart (qv) in the Chinese imperial maritime customs. He served as Hart's secretary until 1896, when he resigned to become secretary to the municipal council of the Shanghai international settlement. This position, affording considerable power and influence, led to his being popularly known as ‘the uncrowned king of Shanghai’. From 1906 he served as an agent for the British & Chinese Corporation, and as such negotiated four railway loans with the Chinese government.
Bland was an astute observer of local affairs and a competent scholar of Chinese; his years of influence in Shanghai coincided with his association with the London Times. He served as its Shanghai correspondent 1897–1907, and on moving to Peking (1907) he filled in for the paper's resident correspondent, George Morrison, most notably in November 1908, when he reported the death of the empress dowager. As an opponent of European influences in the east, particularly what he referred to as ‘the atrocious behaviour of so-called civilised countries in China’, he clashed politically and personally with Morrison, who demanded a monopoly on Chinese reports. Recalled to England by the Times (1910), he was subsequently excluded – at Morrison's instigation – from writing on China, his final Chinese-related piece appearing 19 May 1911.
Among his many books on the Orient, the best-known was undoubtedly China under the empress dowager (1910), on which he collaborated with Sir Edmund Backhouse; a tremendous success, within eighteen months of publication it had run into eight editions. However, it also proved controversial, owing to persistent claims that its extracts from the famous Ching-shan diary, providing a court perspective of the Boxer rebellion, were forged by Backhouse. Though Bland found these claims distressing, he maintained his confidence in Backhouse and the diaries for many years, and collaborated with him on Annals and memoirs of the court of Peking (1913). Other publications include Houseboat days in China (1909), Recent events and present policies in China (1912), and China, Japan, and Korea (1921), the by-product of his 1920 return visit to China. His retirement in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, was interrupted by numerous visits to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay during the Great War, which resulted in Men, manners and morals in South America (1920). He also published his own poetry, Verse and worse (1902), and an anthology of Chinese verse, Something lighter (1924). In 1912 and 1934 he lectured at the Lowell Institute, Boston, on the Far East. In his latter years he was a vigorous propagandist against Britain's policy of appeasement. He died 23 June 1945 in a nursing home in Ipswich, Suffolk. Bland held the orders of the Imperial Double Dragon, the Pso Hsing (China), and the Rising Sun (Japan). He married (1889) Louisa Dearborn of San Francisco; they had no children.