Abstract: Redefining the Function of Government in the Development of Chemical Industrial Enterprises in Republican China, 1927-1937

Jianying Li


The 1920s witnessed the emergence of a domestic chemical industry in China. Chief among the newly established firms was Yongli Soda Company, Ltd. (reorganized and renamed as a division of Yongli Chemical Industries Co., Ltd., in 1934). This paper, then, is a case study of the relationship between the Yongli Soda Company and formal state institutions in Republican China in the context of a fierce foreign competition in the domestic market. I argue that the support of these state institutions fostered the development of the Yongli Soda Company as the leading manufacturer of synthetic soda ash in China during the 1930s. Given the large capital requirements of the modern chemical industry, the company sought investment capital through collaboration with the China subsidiary of Imperial Chemical Industries, a British multinational conglomerate known as Buneimen in China, during the 1920s and 1930s. The company also sought an infusion of state capital from the Nanjing government. For its part, the government offered to invest in the company by purchasing company shares. The government also granted the company the privilege of manufacturing industrial acid. These government policies and actions contributed to making Yongli Soda Company the leading Chinese chemical enterprise during this period.