Here is a significant claim from “an elderly Chinese professor” (p. 76) who was talking to Robert Payne in 1943. Payne was “a writer and teacher who befriended Needham in China.” The passage is quoted in an entertaining new book by Simon Winchester.
(p. 77) “. . .; we invented an airplane, and quite rightly executed the inventor; . . . “
Winchester, Simon. The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2008.
Winchester does not document his source for the quote, but it is presumably one of these two books by Payne, that are listed in Winchester’s bibliography:
Payne, Robert. Chinese Diaries 1941-1946. New York: Weybright and Talley, 1945.
Payne, Robert. Chungking Diary. London: Weybright and Talley, 1945.