Known in China, little known beyond (5) - Rewi Alley 路易·艾黎
𝘐𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘺𝘦𝘢𝘳’𝘴 𝘊𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘯𝘯𝘪𝘢𝘭 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘊𝘰𝘮𝘮𝘶𝘯𝘪𝘴𝘵 𝘗𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘺 𝘰𝘧 𝘊𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘢, 𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘦𝘪𝘨𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘸𝘦𝘭𝘭-𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘪𝘯 𝘊𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘢 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯 𝘰𝘳 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘪𝘱𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘭𝘺 𝘣𝘶𝘪𝘭𝘥-𝘶𝘱 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘗𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘺 (1921) 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘗𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦’𝘴 𝘙𝘦𝘱𝘶𝘣𝘭𝘪𝘤 𝘰𝘧 𝘊𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘢 (1949) 𝘸𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘣𝘦 𝘪𝘯𝘵𝘳𝘰𝘥𝘶𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘴𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘸𝘦𝘦𝘬𝘭𝘺 𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘴 “𝘒𝘯𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘪𝘯 𝘊𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘢, 𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘦 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘣𝘦𝘺𝘰𝘯𝘥”
“Architect of the Chinese Industrial Cooperatives (工業合作社)", 𝗥𝗲𝘄𝗶 𝗔𝗹𝗹𝗲𝘆 路易•艾黎 (1897-1987). Born and raised in New Zealand, Rewi Alley joined the New Zealand army to serve in France during WWI for which he received the Military Medal. Upon return in New Zealand, he first tried farming but in 1927 he set off for Shanghai with the ambition to join the Shanghai Municipal Police. Instead he became a fire officer and municipal factory inspector. The duties exposed him to the poverty in Chinese communities as well as the racism in the Western city districts. Alley joined a political study group (among others with George Hatem and Ruth Weiss) and his political sentiments turned towards thoughts of social reform.
In particular a famine in 1929 made him aware of the poverty in China’s countryside and he took time off work and traveled around China for relief work and he got connected with the top of the Communist Party of China, becoming a party member. Alley adopted 2 boys in this period and he was one of the founders of the CIC, the Chinese Industrial Cooperatives in 1938 during the War of Resistance Against Japan.
The CIC, better known as the Gung Ho movement aimed to organize unemployed workers and refugees, originally for increasing production to support the war effort. The goal was to replace industrial capacity lost to bombing by dispersing and giving workers voting shares in their CICs. The Gung Ho movement organized small scale self-supporting cooperatives, mainly in rural areas, to create employment for workers and refugees.
Furthermore he set up the Bailie School for war orphans in Shaanxi province (together with George Hogg), relocated to the Western Gansu province during the war in the 1940’s.
After the wars and founding of the People’s Republic of China, Alley stayed in Beijing, produced many works for the Party and translated Chinese poems into English. He traveled around the world for lectures, especially about the need for nuclear disarmament. Unlike the way other Western nations treated their citizens who supported China at that time, New Zealand had never rejected Alley. Even President Lange made a moving and dramatic speech during a special honours award in 1985 for Alley, turned to him at its conclusion and said with sincerity, "New Zealand has had many great sons, but you, Sir, are our greatest son."
He died in Beijing on 27 December 1987 and his house in Beijing is now the office of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. Statues of Alley can be found in several cities in China as public commemoration. One of his memorable quotes; “While he always loved his home New Zealand, Alley described China as family.”
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