Historic moments--Rotary's history in China
Board members of the Rotary Club of Shanghai in 1938. Rotary Images
In 1919, the past president of the Rotary Club of Seattle, Roger D. Pinneo, was traveling through the Far East on business. It turned out to be a historic trip, especially for Rotarians in China. Pinneo established the first Rotary club in Shanghai on 17 July 1919 with 35 charter members. Rotary admitted the club on 1 October 1919.
From the beginning, the Shanghai club was international in its membership and objectives. Records from 1924 show that the club's membership was 80 percent American, 10 percent British, and 10 percent Chinese. The club's first officers and directors, elected 24 July 1919, were as follows: president Julian Petit, vice president A.B. Rosenfeld, secretary E.O. Baker, treasurer R. Buchan, and directors Thomas Sammons, F.J. Raven, and W.L. Johnstone.
The Rotary Club of Shanghai was especially active in community work. It supported schools for Russian immigrant boys and physically challenged children. By the end of the 1937-38 Rotary year, the Rotary Mobile Clinic and Dispensary had completed eight months of charitable medical work among refugees in Shanghai.
By mid-1945, RI chartered 29 clubs in China. The clubs produced three RI directors: Fong F. Sec, Shanghai, 1933-34; Yen Te-Ching, Nanking, 1941-42; and Chengting T. Wang, Chungking, 1944-45 and 1945-46.
By mid-1946, due to World War II, Rotary International had terminated 20 of the original clubs.
Rotary experienced a resurgence in China after the war, with the admission or readmission of 19 clubs between 1946 and 1948, including Shanghai on 27 March 1946.
The club, however, was terminated five years later. The Shanghai club voted to suspend its activities in May 1951 citing the following reasons: members found it difficult to attend meetings regularly because of other duties, meeting facilities would no longer be available, and it was increasingly difficult to arrange suitable programs. The RI Board terminated the club in October 1951. By January 1952, all clubs in mainland China had come to an end, although the number of clubs in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan continued to grow.
More than half a century later, the Rotary Club of Shanghai returned. In 2006, Rotary welcomed the Shanghai club, along with the Rotary Club of Beijing, into membership. Only foreign passport holders may join these clubs until the government approves regulations governing international nongovernmental organizations.
For more historical information about Rotary, visit Rotary History and Archives or the Rotary Global History Fellowship.