Through the decades: The Rockefeller family and China

Hu Yijing China Plus Published: 2017-03-21 17:43:05
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Final curtain of David Rockefeller

David Rockefeller, American billionaire, banker, philanthropist and oil fortune heir crowned with one of the world's most influential family names, died in his sleep of congestive heart failure at his home in Pocantino Hills, N.Y. on Monday morning, at the age of 101, a family spokesman, Fraser P. Seitel confirmed.

David Rockefeller. [Photo: IC]

David Rockefeller. [Photo: IC]

Grandson of Standard Oil co-founder John D. Rockefeller Sr. and the sixth child of John D. Rockefeller Jr., David Rockefeller was the last of his generation, serving as a guardian of his family's business and philanthropic fortune and interests which ranged from environmental conservation to arts.

David Rockefeller, along with The Rockefeller family, developed intimate generational ties with China over the past 100 years, with The Rockefeller Foundation, the family's private foundation created in 1913, as a bridge.

The first American banker received by Premier Zhou Enlai

After Nixon's "ice-breaking" 1972 visit to China, David Rockefeller came to China in 1973. He was the first American banker to visit the People's Republic of China since its foundation in 1949, and was received by Premier Zhou Enlai in a night-meeting.

Premier Zhou Enlai meets David Rockefeller in 1973. [Photo: Wechat]

Premier Zhou Enlai meets David Rockefeller in 1973. [Photo: Wechat]

Founder of China's Peking Union Medical College

The Rockefeller family's most significant contribution in China is considered to be the Peking Union Medical College (PUMC), currently one of China's most selective medical colleges.

Peking Union Medical College. [Photo:]

Peking Union Medical College. [Photo:]

As for the Rockefeller Foundation (RF), the Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) holds the record for RF's largest funding for a single program, as well as its longest funding duration.

The Peking Union Medical College (PUMC) was founded in 1921. Its construction budget reached $8 million US dollars, far beyond its initial $1 million estimated in 1915.

Hundreds of millions US dollars investment in China over a century

Over 100 years, the Rockefeller family reportedly invested hundreds of millions dollars in China, extending their focus from medicine-related subjects such as biology, chemistry and physics to a broader version of studies in archaeology, genetics, agriculture, economy, etc.

The Rockefeller's investment history in China dates back to 1863 when David's grandfather, John D. Rockefeller Sr., sold kerosene to China, beginning the Rockefeller-China story.

Over the course of the 20th century, the foundation has supported several hundred Chinese institutions and many thousands of Chinese scholars and practitioners, with Yenching University the biggest receiver among the 13 comprehensive universities to receive donations.

The foundation aided Tsinghua University to establish its Biology Department, and also donated $41,250 US dollars to cover half of the university's biological building's construction budget.

The Rockefeller Foundation has also supported the excavation and research program related to Peking Man, China's first specimens of Homo erectus.

Younger generations of the family seem to be remodeling their Chinese story by exploring the business field following China's reform and opening in 1979.

In 2003, Rose Rock Capital LLC, a firm owned by the Rockefeller family, participated in the joint exploitation of Beijing Qinglong Lake World Multicultural Convention Capital.

In 2011, the family dipped its toes into the water of Private Equity Funds (PE) in China by setting up a PE management joint venture with a Chinese company, with Steven C. Rockefeller III, a sixth-generation member of the Rockefeller family, being one of the copartners.

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