Alfred Sao-ke Sze

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Alfred Sao-ke Sze
Alfred Sao-ke Sze2.jpg
Ambassador to the United States
In office
Preceded byYan Huiqing
Succeeded byWang Zhengting
In office
Preceded byWellington Koo
Succeeded byWu Chaoshu
In office
Preceded byZhang Yintang
Succeeded byZhang Yintang
Ambassador to the United Kingdom
In office
22 January 1929 – 23 October 1929
Preceded byChen Wei-cheng
Succeeded byQuo Tai-chi
In office
20 June 1914 – 11 December 1914
Preceded byLew Yuk Lin
Succeeded byWellington Koo
Personal details
Born10 April 1877
Died3 January 1958(1958-01-03) (aged 80)
Washington, D.C., United States
NationalityRepublic of China
Spouse(s)Tang Yu-hua
ChildrenMai-Mai Sze
Szeming Sze
RelativesTseng Shi-sao (brother)
Thomas Sze (brother)
Alma materCornell University

Dr. Alfred Sao-ke Sze (Chinese: 施肇基; pinyin: Shī Zhàojī; Wade–Giles: Shih Chao-chi; 1877–1958) was a prominent Chinese politician and diplomat during the most turbulent period in modern Chinese history.

Early life[edit]

Sze was born on April 10, 1877. In 1892, Sze moved to Washington DC with his father, who was an attache of the Chinese legation to the US. Sze graduated from Central High School in 1897. He became the first Chinese student to graduate from Cornell University in 1901.[1][2] He returned to China in October 1902 to work for the Peking government.[clarification needed]


Sze served successively in the Ministry of Posts and Communications, the Jilin provincial government and the Foreign Ministry. In 1905, Sze was part of the Chinese delegation which visited a number of countries to study constitutionalism. In 1908-1910, Sze worked in Jilin, during which time he dealt with the repercussions of the attempted assassination of Itō Hirobumi. In 1911 he was appointed Minister to the United States, Spain and Peru, but the eruption of the Xinhai Revolution and overthrow of the Qing government intervened and prevented his travel.

Under the Republic of China, Sze served briefly as Transport and Communications Minister and Finance Minister. From 1914-1920 he was China's minister to the United Kingdom, and in 1919 he was part of the Chinese delegation to the Paris Peace Conference.

Dr. Sze, along with Foreign Minister W.W. Yen, C.T. Wang and Wellington Koo, was part of a Chinese delegation which traveled to the United States in the fall of 1921 to negotiate with the U.S. to impose a limitation of armaments on Japan and to de-escalate tensions over Japan's aggressive, expansionist activities in Shantung.

From 1921-1929, Sze was head of the Chinese legation to the U.S., representing the Peking Government and securing U.S. support to contain Japanese aggression in northern China.[3] In January 1923, President Li Yuan-hung nominated Sze for the office of foreign minister, but of all the Cabinet nominations, Sze's alone was rejected by the legislature. However, Sze served briefly as acting foreign minister until the new appointee was agreed. In November 1928, Sze was again appointed minister to Britain and delegate to the League of Nations. He was replaced in the legation to the U.S. by Dr. C.C. Wu.

In 1931, he was tapped as foreign minister again, but declined. At the time, he was actively representing the Republic of China at the League of Nations, denouncing Japanese military aggression in Manchuria and demanding the League's intervention. He warned the League that if it failed to act, China would have no choice but to re-arm. The League failed to act, so in December 1931, he offered his resignation. His offer was declined and he remained at post.

In January 1933, he was designated minister to the United States once again. He presented his credentials in February 1933. In July 1935, after the United States and the Republic of China agreed to raise their diplomatic missions from legations to embassies, Sze became the first Chinese ambassador to the United States. He was succeeded by C.T. Wang in 1937.

Dr. Sze was a founding member of to the World Bank and was a member of the Advisory Council of the World Bank from 1947 to 1950.[4]


Dr. Sze had been married to Yu-hua "Alice" Tang. Tang's mother had been a lady in waiting to the Empress Dowager Cixi, her uncle was Prime Minister Tang Shaoyi and her cousin Tang Pao-yu was a wife of Wellington Koo.

Alfred's Sze's elder brother, Shi Sao (aka Chao) Tseng (施肇曾 Pinyin: Shī Zhàozēng), born 1868, was also a prominent official and served as a diplomat in USA 1893-1897. Upon returning to China he held several senior railway posts including Director-General of Lunghai Railways 1913-1922. His younger brother S.C. Thomas Sze also attended Cornell and was later a director of the Chinese railroads. The chair of the Sibley School of Engineering at Cornell is named after S.C. Thomas Sze.

Alfred Sze had two sons and four daughters. Dr. Szeming Sze, was medical director of the United Nations from 1955-1968. Deson C Sze was a banker and also served as a private secretary to T.V. Soong. Mai-mai Sze was an accomplished painter, author and model. Julia Sze-Bailey and Alice Wang, lived in Manhattan and Boston, respectively.


Dr. Sze died on January 3, 1958, at the age of 80.


  1. ^ "Dr. Sao-Ke Alfred Sze, Ex-China Envoy, Dies". Washington Star. 5 January 1958.
  2. ^ Cornell and China Cornell University.
  3. ^ Hill Nish, Ian (2002). Japanese Foreign Policy in the Interwar Period (Google Books). Praeger/Greenwood. ISBN 0-275-94791-2.
  4. ^ "Index Sh-Sl". Archived from the original on 12 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-16.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Zhang Yintang
Chinese Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
Zhang Yintang
Preceded by
V. K. Wellington Koo
Chinese Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
Wu Chaoshu
Preceded by
Yan Huiqing
Chinese Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
Wang Zhengting