Abstract: Where Imperialism Could Not Reach: Chinese Industrial Policy and Japan, 1900-1940 [Krooss Session]

Joyman Lee


Where Imperialism Could Not Reach explores the impact of the Japanese model of industrialization on China. In the aftermath of China's defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), Chinese visitors to Japan learned a Japanese-style industrial policy that focused on the government's use of exhibitions and schools to disseminate technological information and stimulate rural innovation. Under the leadership of the regional viceroy Yuan Shikai, the Chinese set up a pilot agency in the treaty port of Tianjin and attempted to implement the system in Zhili province in North China. In focusing on the treaty ports and the impact of Europe and the United States, most historians have not emphasized the policies and practices of rural-based labor-intensive industrialization that underlined the vital intra-Asian dimensions of China's economic development. Despite the deterioration of Sino-Japanese relations in the aftermath of the Twenty-One Demands of 1915, commercial competition with Japan ensured that the policies of the Zhili Industrial Crafts Bureau continued to inform Chinese industrialization strategies. Throughout this intensely turbulent period, Chinese thinkers remained deeply committed to the idea of the Chinese state, as well as to a strategy that emphasized bringing industries to rural areas and preserving the customs and morals of the Chinese.