X-Rotary (3): Rotarians’ nationality

This is the third episode in my series devoted to the Rotary Club of China. In this particular episode, I will analyze the nationality of Shanghai Rotarians over the period 1930-1948.

Was the Rotary Club of Shanghai an American club? Was it open to Chinese and other foreign elites? Do we observe a trend toward sinicization or broader diversification of membership?

In general terms, first, the number of Shanghai Rotarians gradually increased until to the Sino-Japanese war. Starting with 78 members in 1930, the Club’s membership reached a peak in 1940 with 97 members, and ultimately fall to 82 members in 1948, just before the Communist takeover.

Let’s now examine more closely the nationality of members, and how they evolved over time.

The Chinese dominated the club during the entire period (87 members, 38%), followed by Americans (56, 25%), British (37, 16%), other Europeans (39, 17%), Japanese (7, 3%) and miscellaneous nationalities (Canadian, Australian) (2, 1%).

In 1930, the Chinese already represented the dominant group (19 members of a total of 78 members, i.e. 39%), followed by Americans (12 members, 25%), British (9, 18%), other Europeans (5 members, 10%: 3 Germans, 1 French and 1 Italian) and Japanese (4 members, 8%).

By 1940, the original distribution had not changed much. The leading trio (Chinese, American, British) maintained its preeminence. Although they had increased in number, their share had slightly declined in favor of emerging national groups. The Chinese still had 36 members (37%), followed by Americans (19 members, 20%), British (17 members, 17%), Europeans (22 members, 23%) and Japanese, though on the decline (only 3 members, 3%). We also observe a diversification within the European group (that totaled 11 different nationalities), with European Rotarians now coming from not only Western (still 6 French, 3 German, 2 Swiss) but also Northern (1 Dutch, 2 Danish, 2 Norwegians, 3 Swedish) and Eastern countries (1 Polish, 1 Russian, 1 Austrian). Those new European members probably came to Shanghai in the 1930s in the hope of escaping from fascist regimes and the war in Europe.

In 1948, the groups that initially dominated still prevailed and even increased their share (except for the British, who dropped to 11 members, 13%). Chinese still had 32 members (39%), followed by Americans (25 members, 31%). While European membership declined in both number (12 members, 15%) and variety  (8 different national groups), the trend toward Eastern and Northern countries strengthened. While there were no French or German members any more, 3 Dutch, 2 Swiss, 2 Danish, 1 Norwegian, 1 Swedish, 1 Russian, 1 Polish and 1 Czechoslovakian has joined the club. Japanese Rotarians had also disappeared, but the Shanghai Rotary now included non-European groups (1 Australian and 1 Canadian, altogether representing 2%).

We also observe that some national groups went missing during the entire period (Spanish and Greek in Europe, and more incidentally, Latino-Americans or Africans). Yet this is hardly surprising, given their general under-representation, if not total absence among elite circles in Republican Shanghai.
Overall, the Shanghai Rotary survived the war and maintained its membership around an average of 80 members throughout the early 20th century. The American-British-Chinese trinity (the “A.B.C. of Shanghai Rotary”) dominated the club during the entire period, which reflects more generally the social-cultural structure of elites in Shanghai at the time. The national origin of members, however, significantly changed and diversified over time, following the course of local and global events.

Cécile Armand

Ancienne élève de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) de Lyon (2006), agrégée d'histoire (2009), docteure en histoire (2017), postdoctorante à Stanford University (2017-8) puis Aix-Marseille Université dans le cadre du projet ERC “Elites, Networks and Power in modern China” (2018-). Ma thèse soutenue à l’ENS Lyon en juin 2017 proposait une histoire spatiale de la publicité à Shanghai (1905-1949). Mes recherches actuelles portent sur l’émergence des experts, “l’influence” américaine, la naissance de la presse et d’une “opinion publique” en Chine moderne. Dans une démarche d’histoire sociale, mes centres d'intérêt englobent aussi l'histoire spatiale, les outils et méthodes numériques et l'épistémologie des sciences sociales en général.

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Cécile Armand

Ancienne élève de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) de Lyon (2006), agrégée d'histoire (2009), docteure en histoire (2017), postdoctorante à Stanford University (2017-8) puis Aix-Marseille Université dans le cadre du projet ERC “Elites, Networks and Power in modern China” (2018-). Ma thèse soutenue à l’ENS Lyon en juin 2017 proposait une histoire spatiale de la publicité à Shanghai (1905-1949). Mes recherches actuelles portent sur l’émergence des experts, “l’influence” américaine, la naissance de la presse et d’une “opinion publique” en Chine moderne. Dans une démarche d’histoire sociale, mes centres d'intérêt englobent aussi l'histoire spatiale, les outils et méthodes numériques et l'épistémologie des sciences sociales en général.

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