Wang Jingchun was born into a Christian family on June 30, 1882, in Luanhsein, Zhili, in Hebei province. His received his early education at a school run by a local Methodist mission, where his father Wang Zy-yan, served as pastor. When the Boxer Uprising overran the area, he moved to Beijing where he found employment as an interpreter at the American legation.
In 1904 he went to the United States as a representative of north China merchants to the international exposition held at St. Louis, Missouri. At the end of that mission, he stayed in the United States for further education.
He studied science at Ohio Wesleyan in 1905-6 and then went to Yale, where he graduated with honors in civil engineering in 1908. In 1909 he received an M.A. in railroad administration from the University of Illinois. He was awarded the Wu Tingfang Prize for scholarship and general conduct in August 1909. In 1911 he received a PhD in economics and political science from Illinois. During his time as a student he served as president of the Chinese Students’ Alliance in 1907-8 and as editor-in-chief of the Chinese Students’ Monthly in 1908-9. For one year he lectured on commerce and Asian history at the University of Illinois.
In 1911 he returned to China, where he was appointed a member of the board of communications in Beijing. He became a councilor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the provisional government in Nanking 1912, a co-director of Peking-Mukden railway, 1912-13 and a co-director of the Peking-Hankow Railway in 1913-14.
He returned to the United States as an official delegate to the fifth International Congress of Commerce in Boston. In the fall of 1912 he spoke to the Chinese student group at University of Michigan about the political situation at home and the attitude of the new government towards the industrial development of China’s resources. He was on hand to open the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco in early 1915.
As soon as he returned to China he was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Commission on the Unification of the Railway Accounts and Statistics. Later he was appointed the Director of the Department of Railway Finance and accounts and Acting Director-General of posts under the Ministry of Communications. After being chairman of a special commission, Wang’s new regulations came into effect in 1915, so that the ministry of Communications in Beijing could exercise effective administration control over China’s rail system and simplify operations.
In 1917 he was a special delegate to the Fifth Sino-Japanese Joint Traffic Conference in Japan and became managing director of the Beijing-Mukden (Shenyang) Railway.
“His professional competence and personal integrity soon won him the confidence of Chinese colleagues and subordinates and also the respect of foreign staff and associates. Despite political and military strife in China, China’s national railway service began to attain a measure of professionalism and administrative integrity; and Wang’s public spirit did much to raise morale in that service.” (Boorman, Vol. X, 367)
In 1918 he was commissioned to go to Europe to study industrial conditions in European countries. While there he served as a technical delegate of Chinese delegation to the Paris Peace Conference. When he returned to China he resigned his Peking-Hankow railway post and became a councilor of the Ministry of Communication again.
While living in Beijing in the 1920s, Wang represented the Chinese government at several conferences, including the International Telegraph conference in Paris in 1925 and the International Radio Conference in Washington in 1927. He was also active in educational and social work, serving as the chairman of the board of directors of the Beijing YMCA and the chairman of the board of Huiwen School in his native district in Hebei.
In John Earl Baker’s Explaining China (1927), Wang was recognized as one of “Three Leaders in Chinese Railway Administration.” The other two were C. S. Liu (U. of Pennsylvania, 1909) and Yen Kung-Cho (Ministry of Communications).
“The railways in China have been built in most instances by foreign syndicates… The work of unifying these independent lines, which has been going forward during these past fourteen years [1914-28], was due largely to the initiative of C.C. Wang and a group of other Returned Students.” (Baker, 261)
From 1926-31 he worked on a special committee created to advise the Sino-British Boxer Indemnity Commission on ways to spend its indemnity from the Boxer uprising. In 1928-31 Wang lived in Washington, D.C., serving as the director of the Chinese Educational Mission that oversaw the Chinese students studying in the United States.
Wang’s principle mission after 1931 was to procure essential railway and other material on behalf of the ministry of communications and the National Resources Commission. He and his small staff in London bought materials for constructing various rail lines in China, for overhauling other lines in China, and for the river ferry across the Yangtze at Nanjing - about 7 million pounds in all. Another 5 million pounds was spent on steamships and telecommunications equipment for the ministry of communications. These tasks were complicated by the outbreak of full war between China and Japan in 1937 and by the war beginning in Europe in 1939.
After 18 years as the head of the Chinese Government Purchasing Commission in London, Wang closed his office in 1949 and moved to Claremont, California, where he was active in Methodist activities and he became an honorary consultant on Asian studies to the Claremont Graduate School.
Wang Jingchun died in a hospital in Pomona, California, on June 16, 1956. The local Claremont Courier paid tribute:
“He combined the cultural background of old China with technological training in the western world. Perhaps more notable to Chinese residents of the United States was the modest size of Wang’s estate, which was taken as conclusive evidence of personal integrity.” (Boorman, Vol. X, 369)
- “Wang Ching-Ch’un” in Howard L. Boorman, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Republican China, Vol. III, New York: Columbia University Press, 1967), 366-369.
- “Dr. C. C. Wang,” Who’s Who in China (Shanghai: 1925), 797-799.
- John Earl Baker, Explaining China (New York: D. Nostrand Co., 1927), 220, 261.
- “Michigan Club,” Chinese Students’ Monthly, November 1912, 48.