This article is excerpted from Biographies of Prominent Chinese, published in Shanghai in c.1925.
Mr. C.C. Nieh was born in Changsha, Hunan, in 1880. His father, His Excellency the late Nieh Chih-kuei, served as Taotai of Shanghai and Governor of the Kiangsu and Chekiang Provinces. He was the first man to build iron-clad ships and twelve inch guns in China. This he did while he was Director of the Kiangnan Arsenal.
When but two years of age, Mr. Nieh was brought to Shanghai by his parents, where he was educated, together with five brothers and four sisters, under private tutorship. He later pursued private courses, without teachers in electrical and chemical engineering, and in English; and he became not only an efficient engineer, but one of the best English-speaking Chinese in the country.
In 1904, Mr. Nieh, together with influential friends, purchased the Heng Foong Cotton Mill, at Shanghai, having but 15,000 spindles, which was being run at a loss. The mill was reorganized, and, due to Mr. Nieh’s persistent labor, succeeded in showing a profit at the end of the sixth year. This mill subsequently became one of the most important in China, furnishing employment to fifteen hundred employees, and giving scholarships, providing foreign education, to large numbers of students yearly. A school is maintained in the mill. Mr. Nieh is also interested both as promoter and director, in three other important cotton mills.
In 1915, Mr. Nieh served as Vice-Chairman of the Chinese Commercial Mission, which toured the United States on a return visit to that of the Pacific Commercial Commission. He urged American cotton experts to visit and offer their technical advice to China. As a means of improving the Chinese cotton industry, Mr. Nieh conceived the idea of securing the co-operation of the agricultural department of the University of Nanking.
Mr. Nieh is an ardent advocate of vocational schools. He has founded such a school, which has proved a great success, attracting to it students from all parts of the country. He later organized a larger school, of the same nature, equipped with a complete cotton mill, foundry, and workshop, which has become self-supporting, the work being done by students, and the output merchandised. He is a firm believer in factory efficiency; gives attention to the health of the workers; and is attempting to introduce shorter working hours.
In 1918, Mr. Nieh organized the Chinese Cotton Mill Owner’s Association, and was elected Chairman of it. He was also responsible for the organization of the Cotton Improvement Committee, and is a committee member of the foreign Cotton Mill Owners’ Association. In 1919, he organized the Great China Cotton Mill, of which he is now General Manager.
Besides his professional work, Mr. Nieh is identified with many educational, philanthropic, religious, and social service organizations. He became a southern Methodist, in 1914; and has been connected with the Y.M.C.A. for eighteen years; served on the Shanghai Municipal Education Committee, the Chinese Advisory Council; has been a member of the advisory committee of the Chi Ming, McTyiere, and Chi Hsueh Girl’s Schools; and was a director of the Futan College. Among other offices that he has held, he was the first chairman of the Society for Constructive Endeavor. He is now a member of the A.B.C. Club.
Mr. Nieh has translated a book on wireless telegraphy, and one regarding the late Count Tolstoi.
American friends will remember, gratefully, the splendid work performed by Mr. Nieh, in connection with the Red Cross Drive in China, when he secured no less than 5,000 members, and received a banner from the Society in appreciation of his valuable services. In 1920, he was awarded the Third Class Paokuang Chiaho.
Mr. Nieh is, without doubt, one of the most important industrial leaders in China. He is respected and esteemed by all who know him.
A.R. Burt, J.B. Powell and Carl Crow, editors, Biographies of Prominent Chinese (Shanghai: Biographical Publishing Company Inc., c.1925), 62.