Almost penniless Rewi walked off the farm in 1926. After two months in Sydney he worked his passage on a ship to China, landed in Hong Kong and made his way to Shanghai, arriving on 21st April 1927. Rewi arrived at a time of great upheaval in China and his work in the Shanghai Fire Department and as a factory inspector gave him a sound insight into the conditions of the workers. In his spare time exploring the hinterland he found that, as he put it, “the land was beautiful and the people were wonderful.” Rewi involved himself in flood and famine relief, expanding his work in Shanghai. It was during this time Rewi felt “the old system was crumbling and should be replaced with one based on the worth and potential of the Chinese people.”