X-perts (5): Contributors’ biographical background

In this essay, we propose a sociography of CEJ authors, paying special attention to their national origin, educational background and professional occupations at the time they contributed to the journal.

National origins

Where did they come from? Among our population of 149 contributors, we identified 87 Chinese and 60 foreigners. Among the 60 foreigners, Americans ranked first (19), followed by Russian (5), Germans(4), British and Italian experts (2 each). The remaining authors represented minor nationalities from Europe or Northern America – Austrian, Belgian, Canadian, Czechoslovak, Dutch, French, Finnish, Mexican, Polish (1 each). The nationality of 22 authors remains undetermined.

National origin of CEJ contributors

National origin of CEJ contributors. Original data is available here

In the long-term, there was a significant diversification of contributors’ national background, especially during period 3 (1931-1935), with 15 different nationalities compared to 6 during the first period (until August 1928), 5 during the second (1928-1931), and 4 during the two last years of the journal (CEJB, 1936-7). Interestingly, no Japanese expert ever contributed to the journal.

Gender biases

Unsurprisingly, there was an overwhelming majority of men (144). If we look more closely at the gendered distribution by period, we observe that women did not publish a single article under the direction of the Bureau of Industrial and Commercial Information (BICI) (period 2), and neither did they in the CEJB (period 4). Female authors represented but a minority in the CEM (1923-1928) and the early 1930s (i.e., once the BEI was reorganized as the Bureau of Foreign Trade).

Gender distribution of CEJ contributors, per period

Gender distribution of CEJ contributors, per period. Original data is available here

Women’s contributions mostly dealt with labor issues – i.e. subject matters that were commonly considered as “women” concerns at the time, especially in the 1920s. In the early 1930s, however, two female authors (one Chinese, one American) wrote articles on foreign trade – which was usually viewed as men’s fields of specialization.

Educational background

Where did they study? In which country and institution did they receive their education? In which discipline did they chose to major, and what level of education did they reach?

Level of education (academic degrees)

The distribution of academic degrees reflects the remarkably high level of education of CEJ contributors. Among the 91 identified graduates, there were 25 PhD, 19 Masters  – 15 Master of Arts (MA) and 4 Master of Sciences (MS) – 8 Bachelors, and 31 unknown degrees. Only 7 authors did not earn any degree. In addition, the academic level of 77 contributors remains undetermined. In conclusion, most CEJ authors were high degrees holders. Most of them pursued higher education and went so far as to earn the highest academic degree (PhD) in their respective field of expertise.

Distribution of academic degree among CEJ contributors

Distribution of academic degrees among CEJ contributors. Original data is available here

As shown on the graphs below, however, the proportion of PhD in relation to Master tend to decrease over time, especially during the third period. This possibly reflects the redistribution of academic disciplines, notably the greater emphasis on technical fields, in which PhD were not necessarily needed or expected, as we will see later.

Fields of expertise (academic disciplines)

Most CEJ authors graduated in scientific or technical disciplines. A large majority (16) majored in the emerging field of economic sciences (economics or political economy) (Trescott, 2007 ; Zanasi, 2013). 8 graduated in agronomy or agricultural economics, 7 in engineering and mining, 6 in chemistry, 6 in natural sciences (biology, botany, geology, or entomology). 5 majored in medical or health-related studies (medicine, pharmacology, nutrition). This distribution anticipated the increasing emphasis that the Nationalist regime placed on sciences and technology, especially in the aftermath of Becker’s report (1932) and the subsequent educational reform of 1933, which for the first time introduced quotas in favor of technical sciences (Kirby 2009). Notwithstanding the heavy weight of sciences and technology, the CEJ mobilized 7 graduates in law or international law, 5 in business or finance, and 5 in sociology. The remaining authors were scattered across minor disciplines in the Humanities (literature, philosophy, Chinese studies) and mathematics (one each). Overall, the educational background of CEJ contributors reflect the technocratic turn in Chinese higher education and more generally, the technocratic trends of the Nationalist regime during the Nanjing decade (1927-37).

Distribution of academic disciplines among CEJ contributors

Distribution of academic disciplines among CEJ contributors. Original data is available here

If we try to periodize this distribution more precisely, we observe the decreasing number of graduates in agronomy during the second period (1928-31), before they totally disappeared in the CEJB (last period). We also notice an even more dramatic decline of graduates in engineering, sociology and natural sciences between 1928 and 1931, which contrasts with the sustained progress of graduates in economics, law and business.

This apparently reflects shifts in the BFT areas of expertise, which coincide with changes in gouvernemental concerns, as nationalist programs refocused from rural development to financial (silver crisis) and economic planning (Chen 1933). From a more institutional point of view, these changes may also translate a transfer of knowledge production from the BFT to the newly established National Reconstruction Commission (1931), amidst a more general redistribution of missions between the BFT and the manifold bureaucratic agencies that multiplied during the Nanjing decade – to name but a few, the NRC and National Economic Council (NEC).


Country of education and educational institutions

Most contributors pursued their higher education abroad (all nationalities included). Only five of them graduated in Chinese universities. The large majority was trained in the United States (41), generally in prestigious institutions like Columbia University (11),Cornell (8), Yale, Harvard (4 each), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Michigan University (2 each). The remaining American graduates scattered across a dozen institutions (California College of Commerce University of California, University of Chicago, John Hopkins, Maryland Agricultural College, Minnesota, Missouri, Penn, Stanford, Wisconsin and Washington and Lee University). 13 contributors studied in Europe – 6 in the United Kingdom, 3 in Germany, 4 in miscellaneous countries (Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Russia) – and 3 in Japan (Tokyo High School of Business, Tokyo Law School and Keio University, also in Tokyo). Those who studied in the United Kingdom graduated from the London School of Economics, Queen’s University (also in London), the University of Edinburgh, the University of Leeds, of Liverpool and Marlborough College (1 graduate each). Graduates from Germany studied at the University of Halle, Jena, or Leipzig. The remaining authors pursued their higher education in miscellaneous European universities, including the University of Kazan in Russia and the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. The educational background of 87 contributors remains unknown.


Country of education. Original data is available here

In the long-run, we notice a gradual increase in the number of experts trained in Chinese universities. While American graduates represented the largest group in the early years, they declined during the second period (1928-1931), peaked during the third period (1931-5) and decreased again before the Sino-Japanese war. We also observe a drop in the number of German-trained experts, but a slight increase of graduates from Japan.


Country of education, per period. Original data is available here

Chinese returned students

Chinese returned students, especially from America, constituted a major phenomenon in the early twentieth-century (Meng, 1931; Bieler, 2003; Wang, 1966). How many of them can we identify in our population of CEJ contributors? Where did they study? In which fields? And what academic degrees did they earn?
If we focus on Chinese contributors only, we identify 31 were returned students. Most of them studied in the United States (24 of 31). 15 of these American returned students graduated in three top universities (8 from Columbia University, 4 from Cornell, 3 from Harvard). The remaining ones (9) scattered across various institutions (John Hopkins, Maryland Agriculture College, Michigan, Missouri, Stanford, California, Chicago, Yale). Other returned students obtained their degrees in Japan, the United Kingdom (3 each) or the Netherlands (one case). No more than five Chinese contributors obtained their degree in China, equally distributed among five major institutions: Beijing University (Beida), Beiyang University in Tianjin, Shanghai Law School and Fudan University in Shanghai, and West China Union University in Chengdu, Sichuan. We have no information on the educational background of the 49 remaining Chinese contributors.


Chinese contributors' country of education

Country of education (Chinese contributors). Original data is available here

These Chinese experts specialized in various fields. Following the general trend, the majority majored in economics (11), followed by engineering and mining (7), law (6 contributors, including two graduates in international law), business and finance (5), agriculture (4), sociology (3), and philosophy (2). The remaining experts scattered across minor disciplines (botany, education, journalism, nutrition, philosophy).


Chinese contributors’ fields of specialization. Original data is available here

Overall, Chinese experts tended to privilege technical sciences over humanities and social sciences, as we observed earlier. The majority earned a Master’s degree, and a substantial number of them were PhD graduates.


What were their professional occupations? In which sector did they work? What institutions did they serve? In which country, which city? What positions did they hold? 

Sectors and institutions

According to our classification of sectors (described in the introductory essay), the first most important group (23) is composed of academics who taught in Chinese universities, among which the Nanking College of Agriculture ranked first (7), followed by Peking Union Medical College in Beijing and West China Union University in Chengdu (2 each). Other academics worked in high ranking institutions, including Beida, Tsinghua and National University in Beijing (1 each) ; Jiaotong and St. John’s University in Shanghai (1 each) ; Nankai University in Tianjin (1), Yale-in-China in Changsha (1), Suzhou University (1) and Zhongshan University (Guangdong). Two visiting professors were affiliated to foreign universities (Halle in Germany and Occidental College in Los Angeles).

The second most important group includes experts who worked for the (Chinese) government (21), among which 11 for the Ministry of Industry, Agriculture or Commerce, either directly (4) or in governmental bodies that depend on this Ministry (7). Ten contributors worked specifically for a government agency. Two were employed by the Ministry of Finance, two others by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (either in China or in Chinese embassies abroad – France), and more occasionally, by the Ministry of Railways or Communications. The director of the Central Bank of China himself contributed one article to the journal.
Four experts served in special commissions, national (National Flood Relief, Commission for the Readjustement of Finance) or international (International Famine Relief Committee). Three were employed the Chinese Maritime Customs.
Nine contributors worked for transnational organizations, either missionary networks like the YMCA and the Presbyterian Mission of North China, or commercial associations like the International Chamber of Commerce. Six were employed in the private sector, especially banking (3), transportation (Chinese Eastern Railway), realty (Asia Realty Co) and the press industry (1 each). Nine experts worked for foreign governments (in legations, consulates or as commercial attache).
The remaining contributors scattered across various institutions and sectors – Salt Administration (1), Legislative Yuan (1), local government (Guangdong provincial government), political party (Guomindang) (1), private foundation (Milbank Memorial Found), hospital (Yangtzepoo Industrial Hospital). 82 positions remain undetermined.
Institutional positions

Institutional positions. Original data is available here

Overall, the emerging Chinese academe (Liang et al, 2013) and the increasingly centralized Chinese government (Kirby 2001, 2009) represent the two major employers for CEJ authors. Reliance on academic contributors (professors in universities) does not follow a linear pattern. By contrast, we observe a gradual increase of experts employed by the Chinese central government, which reflects the process of bureaucratization during the Nanjing decade, at the expense of officials belonging the late imperial administration (Customs, Salt). In the 1930s, we also notice the slight progress of businessmen (representatives of private companies) and the sustained drop of transnational experts. At the opposite, experts working for foreign governments jumped during the third period (1931-1936).
A closer look reveals that before August 1928 (under the direction of Bureau of Economic Information), most contributors were employed by universities (12 of 28), while no more than three worked for the Chinese government (agencies), three others for transnational organizations, and one in a special commission. Three others served in the Chinese Maritime Customs and one was employed by the Salt administration. Only one expert worked for a private bank.
During the second period (under direction of the Bureau of Industrial and Commercial Information), university professors still ranked first (6 of 17), followed by government officers, either in ministries (2) or government agencies (2),  and commercial organizations (2). The remaining experts served in missionary institutions, political parties or private companies (press, railway, banking). 39 positions remain undetermined during this period.
With the creation of the Bureau of Foreign Trade, Chinese government rose as the first employer (6 of 21, among which four worked for ministries and two for government agencies). Universities now ranked second, along with special commissions and provincial governments (one contributor each). Twelve positions remain unknown.
On the eve of the Sino-Japanese war (1935-7), government service still prevailed (6 of 14 contributors, among which three in ministries and three others in government bodies), while the Academe, the Legislative Yuan and the banking sector purveyed one contributor each. Five positions remain undetermined.


Most contributors worked in China (60). Eleven were affiliated to foreign-based institutions, among which six in the United States, two in Netherlands India, and three in various European countries (France, Germany, United Kingdom). Four locations remain undetermined.
CEJ contributors' workplace

CEJ contributors’ workplace. Original data is available here

In China proper, most employers were based in the commercial and industrial center Shanghai (16) – which hosted a variety of institutions, ranging from private companies, government agencies, missionary organizations and universities – and in the Nationalist capital Nanjing (mostly governmental bodies) (15). As host of prestigious universities and foreign legations, the former capital Beijing came third (8). The remaining institutions (mostly universities) were distributed across provincial capitals and second-tier cities (Changsha, Chendgu, Guandong, Hankou, Harbin, Rehe, Shenyang, Suzhou, Tianjin, Weixian, Yantai).
In the United States, contributors were more likely to work in the financial capital New York (2). Other American cities included Washington, DC (with the headquarters of the United States federal government and more specifically the Department of Commerce),Los Angeles (private foundation), Brockton and Honololu (Pan-Pacific Food Conservation Conference). European experts worked in Amsterdam, London and La Halle (Germany). 72 locations remain unknown.
In the long term, we observe a gradual concentration around three major cities in China (Nanjing, Shanghai, Beijing). Within the triad, we notice the increasing centralization around Nanjing at the expense of Shanghai, especially under the Nanjing regime. Peripheral cities in China rose during the first period (prior to August 1928), while American and European institutions are better represented during the second period (early years of the Nanjing government).



Bieler, Stacey. “Patriots” or “Traitors”?: A History of American-Educated Chinese Students, 2003.

Chen, Gideon. Chinese Government Economic Planning and Reconstruction since 1927. Chicago: China Institute of Pacific Relations, 1933.

Kirby, William. “Engineers and the State in Modern China.” In Prospects for the Professions in China, edited by Kenneth Winston, William P Alford, and William Kirby, 283–313. London: Routledge, 2009.

Liang, C. et al. Wusheng de geming — Beijing daxue, Suzhou daxue xuesheng shehui laiyuan (1949-2002) (The Silent Revolution. The origins of the academe in Beijing and Suzhou University). Beijing : Beijing sanhua shudian, 2013.

Meng, Chih. “The American Returned Students of China.” Pacific Affairs 4, no. 1 (1931): 1–16. https://doi.org/10.2307/2750435.

Trescott, Paul B. Jingji Xue: The History of the Introduction of Western Economic Ideas into China, 1850-1950. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2007.

Wang, Y. C. (Yi Chu). Chinese Intellectuals and the West, 1872-1949. Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1966.

Zanasi, Margherita. Saving the Nation: Economic Modernity in Republican China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

Cécile Armand

Ancienne élève de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (2006), agrégée d'histoire (2009), docteure en histoire (2017), mes travaux portent sur la publicité, l'histoire urbaine, les migrations intellectuelles entre la Chine et les Etats-Unis et les méthodes computationnelles appliquées à la recherche historique. Mes recherches ont reçu le soutien des fondations Chiang Ching-kuo, Coca-Cola, Andrew Mellon (Program DHAsia, Stanford), de l'Agence Nationale de la Recherche (Access ERC, ENS-Lyon) et du Conseil Européen de la Recherche (projet ENP-China, Aix-Marseille).

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Cécile Armand

Ancienne élève de l'Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (2006), agrégée d'histoire (2009), docteure en histoire (2017), mes travaux portent sur la publicité, l'histoire urbaine, les migrations intellectuelles entre la Chine et les Etats-Unis et les méthodes computationnelles appliquées à la recherche historique. Mes recherches ont reçu le soutien des fondations Chiang Ching-kuo, Coca-Cola, Andrew Mellon (Program DHAsia, Stanford), de l'Agence Nationale de la Recherche (Access ERC, ENS-Lyon) et du Conseil Européen de la Recherche (projet ENP-China, Aix-Marseille).

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