Dispatch header

     Volume 6 Number 4, April 30, 2012


Co-op leaders among China's top ten foreign friends 
Three foreigners key to developing China's iconic Gung Ho co-operative movement were among an exclusive group chosen by netizens in that country's first-ever public cyber selection event two years ago. The poll garnered over 50 million votes before settling on the Top Ten International Friends of China from a field of fifty candidates. Canadians and the Canadian Co-operative Association have also helped strengthen the Gung Ho movement over the years.  



for the





Patty and Josie behind wicket

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

(7:36 min.)


Create opportunities

for empowerment. 



Connect with CCA

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook


Quick Links


Join Our Mailing List

American Journalist Edgar Snow and New Zealander Rewi Alley, both instrumental in establishing China's Gung Ho co-operative movement in the late 1930s came in fourth and seventh on the list. Sixth on the list is Israel Epstein who helped lead the Gung Ho movement after its revival in 1987.


A Gung Ho training event at Renshou Orange Growers Co-op in Sichuan
Gung Ho trainer working with members of an orange
grower's co-operative in Sichuan

Formed in 1939, Gung Ho has championed member owned and controlled co-operatives in China for over 70 years and maintains the involvement of several of the original founders and supporters.The Gung Ho movement arose in the 1930s to fill the void left by the destruction of China's mostly urban industrial capacity during the Japanese occupation. At its zenith, the movement boasted some 3,000 co-operative enterprises.


The name gung ho ("work together" in Chinese) was adopted as a slogan by the US Marines in 1942, became the expression still widely used in English to convey a spirit of enthusiasm, and is the title of at least two Hollywood movies.   


The importance of the Gung Ho co-operatives in the liberation of China was recognized initially by nationalists and communists alike - Madam Sun Yat-sen, Mei Ling Soong, Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and many others. When economic priorities in China changed, the headquarters of ICCIC were disbanded in 1952, and the co-operatives were incorporated into communes and factory collectives in the restructured economy.


Co-operatives and Gung Ho experienced a revival in the 1980s with the opening up of China to world markets. A partnership with the Canadian Co-operative Association from 2000 to 2009 strengthened Gung Ho's capacity to promote co-operative growth in China. Co-operatives eventually received legal recognition in law in 2007 with the passing of legislation governing the registration and development of farmer co-operatives. Gung Ho helped expose drafters of the law to ICA style co-operatives, and CCA brought Canada's own co-operative sector to their attention in the lead up to the new law with tours of agricultural, consumer and financial co-ops in Saskatchewan and Ontario.



Gung Ho
The Gung Ho symbol

Since the law took effect China has been home to the world's fastest growing co-op sector. By the end of 2011, some 509,000  farmer co-operatives with over 34 million households (over one-tenth of all Chinese households) had registered with the government. 


The poll was sponsored by China Radio International (CRI), the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs as part of celebrations marking the 60th founding anniversary of the People's Republic of China.


Few netizens likely knew of these individual's co-operative achievements when casting their votes. Edgar Snow is widely known for his book "Red Star over China" which helped the Chinese Red Army and Chairman Mao Zedong gain international influence in the 1930s. Israel Epstein, who was born in Poland and later became a naturalized Chinese citizen, made China known to the world through his numerous books and articles about China's anti-aggression war and peace time reforms and development. Rewi Alley, a social activist and educator from New Zealand contributed greatly to China's national liberation and development.


Not surprisingly, Norman Bethune, a Canadian physician and household name among Chinese topped the list with more than 4.6 million votes.    



Women played significant roles establishing and strengthening the Gung Ho movement.  


American writer Agnes Smedley was a supporter and publicist for the Gung Ho movement, writing stirringly about the co-op movement in her book Battle Hymn of China, and winning great sympathy and support for Gung Ho in China and abroad.

In 1933, Smedley introduced Rewi Alley to Soong Ching Ling (also known as Madame Sun Yat-sen) one of the three Soong sisters who, along with their husbands were among China's most significant political figures of the early 20th century. She became a strong supporter of the Gung Ho movement and Honorary Chair of ICCIC at its founding in 1939. Smedley was a close friend of Gen Evans Carlson, who did so much to publicise Gung Ho (and is generally credited with introducing the word Gung Ho into the English language).




Journey in Time, Seven-part documentary series about Rewi Alley.


Gung Ho 70th Anniversary Celebrations, interesting backgrounder on Gung Ho's fascinating history.  


This publication is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Cette publication est réalisée avec l'appui financier du gouvernement du Canada accordé par l'entremise de l'Agence canadienne de développement international (ACDI).