William Yinson Lee (Li Yuanxin), an influential charity innovator, introduced many modern fund-raising techniques into Shanghai from the 1920s to the 1940s, a time of growing foreign intervention in charitable services to China’s poor and disadvantaged. From the late nineteenth century, foreign charities and humanitarian agencies had drawn attention to inequality and injustice in China and tried to remedy them through charitable investments in education, health, and social welfare. These efforts were welcome as substantial support to the needy but unwelcome in drawing international attention to China’s failure to care for its own. Underlying ambivalence toward foreign charities was reflected in efforts to recover China’s welfare sovereignty by Chinese émigrés returning to China from Anglophone settlements around the Pacific Rim. For Lee and his associates in Shanghai, charity served as an entrée into elite social and political circles and as a medium for cross-cultural negotiations, for participating actively in civic life, for promoting trans-Pacific trade, and for recovering welfare sovereignty for modern China.
- civil society
- William Yinson Lee (Li Yuanxin)