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Porter, Robin Scarland (1977) The Christian Conscience and Industrial Welfare in China, 1920-1941. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The birth of modern industry [in China] introduced a new factor into urban life in the form of the emergent industrial working population, whose conditions of life and labour equalled in squalor anything known during the worst phases of the industrial revolution in the West. A dawning awareness of the need to meet this new problem if Christianity were to have any profound influence on China, coupled with anxiety over the threat posed to the social equilibrium by strikes and other industrial disorders, moved certain Christian agencies in the early 'twenties to take a more active interest in the plight of urban workers. The Christian organisations principally responsible for industrial welfare work in China in the nineteen-twenties and 'thirties were the Young Men's Christian Association, the Young Women's Christian Association, and the National Christian Council of China, representing the various Protestant Churches. The work in this sphere of each of these agencies is dealt with in turn, though there are many points at which it overlapped. The activity of Christian reformers drew the attention of the International Labour Office to China, prompting the organisation to send its first mission there in 1924. The history of the ILO's subsequent involvement with China, and in particular of its branch office established there in 1930, forms the subject of another chapter. As a result of persistent lobbying by the YWCA, the Shanghai Municipal Council was in 1932 persuaded to create an 'Industrial Section' to oversee industrial conditions in factories of the International Settlement. The achievement of this Section, which was led by a former YWCA official, is also reviewed. Perhaps the best-known episode in the history of industrial welfare efforts in China before 1949 was the attempt to restrict the use of child labour in the factories of the International Settlement in the mid-'twenties, in which many individuals and groups collaborated. This episode is re-examined here as a case study, with the benefit of a record of the original testimony before the Child Labour Commission, for it will be suggested that the obstacles in the way of the success of any gradual reform in China are most clearly brought to light in this case. In the final chapters this theme is pursued further, as the overall Christian industrial welfare effort is evaluated and the contradictions within it are explored.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 16:53

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