Sheng Xuanhuai (1844-1916)

Sheng, who oversaw the building of the Telegraph in China, was a Qing dynasty Chinese tycoon, politician, and educator. He founded several major banks and universities and served as Minister of Transportation of the Qing Empire. He was also known as Sheng Gongbao.

Sheng was born into a family of officials, and was the eldest of six children. Sheng's father was also a close friend of General Li Hongzhang in 1870 when Li had to go to Tianjin after the Tianjin massacre to handle the diplomatic crisis with the French. French convents had been accused of kidnapping orphans, killing them and harvesting their body parts, fairly monstrous, the orphans denying the "kidnapping" charges. Li, who appreciated Sheng's talent, employed him as his aide and he soon became his chief economic deputy. Sheng recommended that Li build more merchant ships in order to fund the military ships that the Qing government needed. Sheng's suggestion was accepted and from then on Sheng became well known for his career in ship building.

Starting in 1881 Sheng supervised The Imperial Telegraph Administration constructing 14,000 miles of wires that connected all the major cities and strategic centres of China.
The first message initially ran between Shanghai and Tientsin on 2 December 1881.

Some Background
Great Northern Telegraph Building (GN) was built by a Danish company that became Shanghai's first telephone company. The company set up the first telephone switch in Shanghai (in an older building) in 1882. According to it had been in May 1881, five years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone that GN applied to the Shanghai International Settlement and the French Concession for permission to introduce the new telecommunication device to the city. The new building (completed in 1908) is now home for the Bangkok Bank and the Royal Thai Consulate General.
Click here for further background, on how in 1871 Great Northern first linked up Hong Kong, Shanghai, Nagasaki, Moscow and the world.

Back to Ship Building. In 1885 Sheng was made Director-General of China Merchants Steam Navigation Company in Shanghai that had been founded in 1872

Cotton Milling and Weaving
In 1894, following a fire in the profitable Shanghai Cotton Cloth Mill, Zheng enlarged the scale of the mill to 64,566 spindles and 750 looms, more than any other mill in the country at that time. However there was tough competition, and profitability fell.

Founded Tianjin University in 1895 (President one year)

President of Nanyang Public School (1896-1905)
Now called Shanghai Jiao Tong University
and linked to Xi'an Jiaotong University

In 1896, Sheng took over the Hanyang ironworks and related mines, along with control of the newly created imperial railway administration.

In 1897, Sheng founded the Imperial Bank of China in Shanghai

In 1900 Sheng still based in Shanghai resisted Empress Dowager's Boxer uprising

In 1904 Sheng founded the Red Cross Society of China in Beijing. Organisation was closely involved with Shanghai business community. After the Japanese invasion in 1930s, the society moved to south-west China, then ultimately Taiwan, with the CCP reorganising the Beijing branch in 1950.

In 1911, Sheng was appointed head of the Board of Posts and Communications in China in Beijing. He attempted to bring the railway system under national control by consolidating and expanding local railroad projects that had been initiated by gentry and merchant groups in the provinces. The provincial interests, however, felt that this move represented a conspiracy on the part of high government officials to sell out China to foreign imperialist powers.

Thus, shortly thereafter, rioting began in the western province of Sichuan and spread throughout the country. Finally, on October 10 in 1911, a revolt in the central Chinese city of Wuhan set in motion the events that brought down Sheng’s plan and the dynasty and ended 2,000 years of imperial rule.

Sheng died in Shanghai in 1916.

** End of Report

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