Americanizing Chinese Elites in Republican Shanghai
Last week Tuesday February 11, 2020, I was invited to present my current research on the Rotary Club of China and transnational elite sociability in the workshop “Networks in East Asia: Methods and Case Studies” at the University of Bristol. It was also an opportunity to bridge the ENP-China project with Robert Bickers’ Hong Kong History Project and to exchange with his lively team of PhD. students and postdoctoral fellows.
In my talk titled “Americanizing Elite Sociability in modern China“, I took the case of the Rotary Club of Shanghai to discuss the Americanization of Chinese elites in Republican Shanghai. My purpose was to assess more specifically the position of Chinese members within the club, and the position of the club itself within Chinese society. Relying on a variety of heretofore untapped sources (Rotary international Archives, newspapers, personal papers) and an adequate set of digital techniques (esp. Social Network Analysis), I demonstrated that the Rotary successfully integrated Chinese elites, even though most members were already “Americanized”. I pointed out that far from being a self-contained foreign elite club, the Shanghai Rotary club was deeply rooted in local and national life, with a China-centered, social and international perspective. In the end, the Rotary served as an arena not so much for Americanizing Chinese elites but rather for sinicizing the new generation of transnational elites in modern China.
The various presentations spurred a burst of exciting questions and comments from the students, who were deeply interested in the uniquely international character of the Rotary Club of Shanghai and the new techniques available for historical research.