Kuo Ping-wen (1880-), educator who was president of Tung-nan University and director of the China Institute in America. After 1930 he served the National Government in trade and financial posts. He was deputy director general and chief of secretariat of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration from 1944 to 1947.
A native of Shanghai, Kuo Ping-wen attended, from 1893 to 1896, Lowrie Institute in Shanghai, where he received a Western-style education. After graduation he taught at the institute for a year and then served in the customs and postal services in Shanghai, Kashing, and Hangchow.
In 1906 Kuo left China to continue his education in the United States. He majored in science at the College of Wooster in Ohio and was graduated in 1911 with a Ph.B. degree. He received an M.A. from Columbia University in 1912 and a Ph.D. in 1914. His dissertation. The Chinese System of Public Education, was published by Teachers College in 1915.
Kuo was an active student leader. He served as the editor in chief of the Chinese Students' Monthly (1908-9), editor of the Wooster Voice (1909-10), and general secretary of the Chinese Students' Alliance (1911-12). A brilliant scholar, he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Delta Kappa and was awarded the Livingston Fellowship in education by Teachers College.
After returning to China in 1914, Kuo became an editor at the Commercial Press. In 1915 he was appointed dean of the Nanking Higher Normal School. The following year, he served as president of the Lowrie Institute and of Chekiang Provincial College. In 1917 he headed an educational commission to Japan and the Philippines to study their educational systems. He then rejoined the Commercial Press as an editor and director and edited two English-Chinese dictionaries.
In 1918 Kuo was appointed president of the Nanking Higher Normal School. He also led an educational mission abroad to study postwar educational problems in America and Europe. The Nanking Higher Normal School was one of the outstanding teachers colleges in China. Its predecessor, the Liang-kiang Normal School, founded by Chang Chih-tung (ECCP, I, 27-32) in 1 902 for the training of primary and middle school teachers, had been the first institution of its kind in China. In 1914 the Nanking Higher Normal School had been founded on the campus of the Liang-kiang Normal School. When Kuo assumed the presidency, the school had already expanded from an initial enrollment of 126 students to 416 students.
In 1920 the school administration, under Kuo"s leadership, proposed the establishment of a national university. The proposal received the support of Ts'ai Yuan-p'ei (q.v.) and other prominent educators and was presented for consideration by the ministry of education in Peking. Fan Yuan-lien, the minister of education, was sympathetic to the proposal and obtained the cabinet's approval. On 6 December 1920 the preparatory office of Tung-nan University, or National Southeastern University, began operations, and in July 1921 the ministry of education approved the university's organic laws. The Shanghai College of Commerce was founded as a component unit of the new university. Examinations for incoming students were held in August. A month later, Kuo was appointed president of Tung-nan University and of the Nanking Higher Normal School. The two institutions shared a campus until 1923, when the school was absorbed into the university.
From 1918 to 1925 appropriations for public schools and national universities often were in arrears. Fortunately for Kuo, the military governor of Kiangsu, Ch'i Hsieh-yuan (q.v. I, was sympathetic to local educational needs. Tungnan University thus enjoyed a greater degree of financial stability than other universities under the jurisdiction of the Peking government. This state of affairs may be attributed partly to Kuo's diplomatic skill in adjusting himself to contemporary political realities. He established friendly relations with the provincial authorities, with Peking government officials, and with prominent educators. On the other hand, such political flexibility won him the enmity of some Kuomintang partisans, such as Yang Ch'üan (q.v.i, a professor in the university who instigated a campaign to oust Kuo from the presidency.
In 1924 Kuo Fing-wen was appointed by the Peking government to the first board of trustees of the China Foundation for the Promotion of Education and Culture, which was supported by the Boxer Indemnity funds returned by the United States (see Jen Hung-chün). Kuo was a member of the board until 1927, and it was he who proposed the establishment of the China Institute in America to provide assistance to Chinese students in American universities and to function as a channel for Sino-American cultural relations. The institute was inaugurated in 1925, and Kuo resigned from Tung-nan University to become its first director, a post which he held until 1930. From 1928 to 1930 he also served as a special commissioner to the United States and Europe for the National Government.
Kuo returned to China in 1931 to become the managing director of the Shanghai Trust Company, a director of the National Industrial Bank, and a supervisor of the Savings Society of the Central Trust of China. He held all these positions until the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937. He also served as director of the bureau of foreign trade in the ministry of industries and commerce in 1931 and 1936. In 1932 he served as director general of the Chinese customs administration. He was elected president of the Pan-Pacific Association and the director of the Institute of International Affairs.
From 1938 to 1944 Kuo was stationed at London as the director of the Chinese Government Trading Commission to Great Britain and financial counsellor in the Chinese embassy. He played an important part in procuring war materiel and financial aid for China. In 1944 he was appointed (in absentia) vice minister of finance.
In 1943 Kuo led the Chinese delegation to the United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture held in Hot Springs, Mrginia, and to the United Nations Preliminary Monetary Conference in Washington, D.C. He was a member of the Chinese delegation, headed by H. H. K'ung, to the 1944 United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.
Kuo Ping-wen resided in the United States from 1944 to 1947 as the deputy director general and chief of secretariat of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. After 1947, he remained in the United States, serving in various capacities as an adviser of Chinese students and as a promoter of Sino-American cultural relations and residing in Washington, D.C. He was appointed chairman of the National Government's cultural and educational enterprises advisory committee in 1957.