Rotary has a long history in China that dates back to 1919 when the first club in China (and the second club in Asia) was chartered in Shanghai. This first English language club mainly had expatriates — Americans and Brits — but it soon took on an international flavour as it welcomed other nationalities to its roster including prominent local Chinese businessmen.
Rotary flourished in China and 33 Rotary clubs came up throughout the mainland up to the Liberation in 1949. After 1949, however, it became impossible for Rotarians to meet and many members moved overseas. The remaining clubs were formally disbanded by Rotary International in 1952.
But from 2006, Rotary clubs are being revived one by one. Shanghai West was given provisional club status again in Dec 2014 by RI. The Charter was presented in May 2015 by RI President Gary Huang and RC Shanghai West is the first Mandarin Chinese language club on the mainland, since 1948. It follows in the footsteps of the original Shanghai West Club that was chartered on Nov 16, 1948.
Because of China’s unique characteristics it has been treated by Rotary like a small de facto district under the leadership of a Special Representative to China, who is their de facto District Governor. During a recent visit by 20 Rotarians from RC Madurai West to Shanghai, we had the opportunity to meet the current Special Representative Rtn Frank Yih, Past President of the Rotary Club of Shanghai. The Charter President of RC Shanghai West Rtn Richard will be the Governor for 2018–19.
The Rotarians of RC Shanghai West gave a very warm and rousing welcome to our members. Their reception team comprised Rtns (Evan) Tsung-Han Huang, the President; Chao Yin Cheng, the Secretary; Richard, their Charter President, current AG and incoming DG; Rtn Emma, the Programme Chair; Gill Hsu, Roy Chu and the affable Lynna Wong, Vice Fellowship Chair. Rtn Lynna Wong also known as ‘Coffee’ (owns a coffee plantation in Indonesia) put all of us at ease and acted as an interpreter.
Both the Presidents Rajkumar and Evan Huang exchanged club flags and gifts. All our members were overwhelmed by the warmth of our Rotary friends beyond the Great Wall.
The writer is past president of RC Madurai West, D 3000.