The Chinese Communist Party was confronted with the pressing challenge of ‘reconstructing’ China's industrial economy when it came to power in 1949. Drawing on recently declassified Chinese Foreign Ministry archives, this article argues that the Party met this challenge by drawing on the expertise of Japanese technicians left behind in Northeast China at the end of the Second World War. Between 1949 and 1953, when they were eventually repatriated, thousands of Japanese technicians were used by the Chinese Communist Party to develop new technology and industrial techniques, train less skilled Chinese workers, and rebuild factories, mines, railways, and other industrial sites in the Northeast. These first four years of the People's Republic of China represent an important moment of both continuity and change in China's history. Like the Chinese Nationalist government before them, the Chinese Communist Party continued to draw on the technological and industrial legacy of the Japanese empire in Asia to rebuild China's war-torn economy. But this four-year period was also a moment of profound change. As the Cold War erupted in Asia, the Chinese Communist Party began a long-term reconceptualization of how national power was intimately connected to technology and industrial capability, and viewed Japanese technicians as a vital element in the transformation of China into a modern and powerful nation.
I am grateful to Mariko Yamamoto for superb research assistance, and to Rana Mitter, Henrietta Harrison, Evelyn Goh, participants in the University of Leeds’ Sino-Japanese Relations Research Network, participants in the Bristol University ‘China in Transition (1945–1955)’ workshop, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions. The ‘China in Transition (1945–1955)’ workshop where this article was presented was funded by the Leverhulme Trust's China's War with Japan programme at Oxford University and the British Inter-University China Centre.
1 The Lüshun-Dalian region was subsequently occupied by the Soviet Union from 1945–1950.
2 Renmin Ribao [People's Daily], Lüda Zhongguo gongren jishu jie de dansheng Dalian gongye zhanlanhui tongxun [Lüda the birth of a class of Chinese technical workers. Correspondence from the Dalian industrial exhibition], 13 October 1949.
4 ‘Jishu’ can also be translated as ‘skill’ or ‘technique’.
5 Renmin Ribao, Lüda Zhongguo gongren jishu jie de dansheng.
6 For different estimates of the number of Japanese nationals in China and occupied China during the War, see Ward, R. (2011). Delaying repatriation: Japanese technicians in early post-war China, Japan Forum, 23:4, p. 473; Watt, L. (2009). When Empire Comes Homes: Repatriation and Reintegration in Postwar Japan, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, p. 39.
7 Mitter, R. (2000). The Manchurian Myth: Nationalism, Resistance, and Collaboration in Modern China, University of California Press, Berkeley, pp. 66–68, 116–124; Bix, H.P. (1972). Japanese imperialism and the Manchurian economy, 1900–31, The China Quarterly, 51, pp. 435–440; Young, L. (1998). Japan's Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism, University of California Press, Berkeley, pp. 183–185, 214–215.
8 Yang, D. (1998).‘Resurrecting the Empire? Japanese Technicians in Postwar China, 1945–49’, in Fuess, H.The Japanese Empire in East Asia and its Postwar Legacy, Iudicium, Munich, p. 186; Gillin, D.G. and Etter, C. (1983). Staying on: Japanese soldiers and civilians in China, 1945–1949, Journal of Asian Studies, 42:3, pp. 497–518; Ward, Delaying repatriation, p. 473; Hess, C.A. (2011). From colonial port to socialist metropolis: imperialist legacies and the making of ‘New Dalian’, Urban History, 38:3, pp. 373–390. A new study examining how the Chinese Communist Party drew on Britain's economic legacy is Howlett, J.J. (2013). ‘The British boss is gone and will never return’: Communist takeovers of British companies in Shanghai (1949–1954), Modern Asian Studies, 47:6, pp. 1941–1976.
9 On the expulsion of foreigners from the People's Republic of China, see Brady, A-M. (2003). Making the Foreign Serve China: Managing Foreigners in the People's Republic, Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham, pp. 80–84.
10 Moore, A.S. (2013). Constructing East Asia: Technology, Ideology, and Empire in Japan's Wartime Era, 1931–1945, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California.
11 In 2004, the Foreign Ministry Archive of the People's Republic of China [Zhonghua renmin gongheguo waijiaobu dang'anguan] underwent an extensive declassification process under enforcement of the 1998 Archives Law. However, in 2012 the Foreign Ministry Archive dramatically restricted access to around 90 per cent of its declassified holdings. This research, conducted between 2010 and 2012, was therefore able to make use of a very brief window of opportunity to access these significant archival documents.
12 Diamant, N.J. (2010). ‘Why Archives?’, in Carlson, A., Gallagher, M.E., and Lieberthal, K.Contemporary Chinese Politics: New Sources, Methods, and Field Strategies, Cambridge University Press, New York, p. 39.
13 FMA File No. 105-00224-02, Guanyu dui Dongbei Ribenren gongzuo de zongjie baogao [Summary work report on Japanese in Northeast China], 11 August 1949, p. 10.
14 Ibid., p. 16.
15 Watt estimates that over five million Japanese nationals were repatriated back to Japan from around Asia between September 1945 and December 1946. See Watt, When Empire Comes Home, p. 1.
16 Igarashi, Y. (2005). ‘Belated Homecomings: Japanese Prisoners of War in Siberia and their Return to Postwar Japan’, in Moore, B. and Hately-Broad, B.Prisoners of War, Prisoners of Peace: Captivity, Homecoming and Memory in World War II, Berg, New York, pp. 105–121; Barshay, A. (2013). The Gods Left First: The Captivity and Repatriation of Japanese POWs in Northeast Asia, 1945–56, University of California Press, California.
17 Watt, When Empire Comes Home, pp. 105–106, 135–136.
18 Gillin and Etter, Staying on, pp. 505–509; Kushner, B. (2013). Ghosts of the Japanese imperial army: the ‘White Group’ (Baituan) and early post-war Sino-Japanese relations, Past and Present, Supplement 8, pp. 117–150.
19 Yang, ‘Resurrecting the Empire?’, pp. 187–193; Gillin and Etter, Staying on, pp. 509–511.
20 FMA File No. 118-00118-02, Dongbei Ribenren qingkuang he chuli yijian [Views on the situation and how to deal with the Japanese in Northeast China], 1 August–30 November 1951, p. 1; Liang, Z. (2006). Jianguo chuqi waiqiao guanli gongzuo shuping [A review of the management of overseas nationals in the early Liberation period], Dangdai Zhongguo Shi Yanjiu [Contemporary China History Studies], 13:4, p. 48.
21 ‘Songjiang’ (Sungkiang) province existed until 1954 when it was merged with Heilongjiang province.
22 FMA File No. 105-00224-02, pp. 3–4.
23 Ibid., pp. 4, 14.
24 Ibid., p. 20.
26 Tamanoi, M.A. (2000). Knowledge, power, and racial classification: the ‘Japanese’ in ‘Manchuria’, Journal of Asian Studies, 59:2, pp. 252–259.
27 It is likely that there were also technicians of Taiwanese and Korean nationality, who had been part of the Japanese empire of Manchukuo, still living in the Northeast. Unfortunately, however, available Chinese Communist Party records refer only to these technicians and skilled workers as ‘Japanese’ and do not provide any further indication of the ethnicity or race of these technicians. For more on Taiwanese and Koreans in Manchukuo, see, for example, Hsu, H. (2012). Zai ‘Manzhouguo’ de Taiwanren gaodengguan: yi datong xueyuan de biyesheng weili [Taiwanese senior officials in Manchukuo: the case of graduates from Tatung Academy], Taiwan shi yanjiu [Taiwan Historical Research], 19:3, pp. 95–150.
28 FMA File No. 105-00224-02, pp. 6–7.
29 FMA File No. 118-00086-02, Guanyu Dongbei Riben ren de qingkuang baogao [Report on the situation of Japanese in Northeast China], 1 June–30 June 1950, p. 5.
30 FMA File No. 105-00224-02, pp. 6–7.
31 Marusawa, Tsuneya (1979). Shin-Chugoku Kensetsu to Mantetsu Chūō-Shiken-Jo [The Reconstruction of New China and the South Manchurian Railway Central Research Laboratory], Nigatsusha, Tokyo, pp. 116–118. For more on the Central Research Laboratory, see Ward, Delaying repatriation, pp. 471–483.
32 FMA File No. 105-00224-02, p. 7.
33 Kirby, W.C. (1992). ‘The Chinese War Economy’, in Levine, S.I. and Hsiung, J.C.China's Bitter Victory: The War with Japan, 1937–1945, M.E. Sharpe, New York, pp. 185–186; Lary, D. and MacKinnon, S. (eds) (2001). The Scars of War: The Impact of Warfare on Modern China, UBC Press, Vancouver, p. 6.
34 Westad, O.A. (1998). Brothers in Arms: The Rise and Fall of the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1945–1963 , Woodrow Wilson Center Press, Washington DC, p. 2.
35 Renmin Ribao, Lüda Zhongguo gongren jishu jie de dansheng.
36 Eckstein, A. (1975). China's Economic Development: The Interplay of Scarcity and Ideology, University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, pp. 213–214.
37 Ibid., pp. 213–214.
38 Zhang, S. (2001). Economic Cold War: America's Embargo Against China and the Sino-Soviet Alliance, 1949–1963, Woodrow Wilson Center Press, Washington DC, p. 54.
39 Brown, J. and Pickowicz, P.G. (2007). Dilemmas of Victory: The Early Years of the People's Republic of China, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, p. 2.
40 Shen, Z. and Li, D. (2011). After Leaning to One Side: China and its Allies in the Cold War, Woodrow Wilson Center Press, Washington, DC, p. 119; Kaple, D.A. (1994). Dream of a Red Factory: The Legacy of High Stalinism in China, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 13, 56.
41 FMA File No. 105-00224-02, p. 20.
42 Marusawa, Shin-Chugoku Kensetsu; Ward, Delaying repatriation, pp. 479–480.
43 Nish, I. (2001). ‘Preparing for Peace and Survival: The Japanese Experience, 1943–46’, in his Collected Writings of Ian Nish, Part 2, Curzon Press, Surrey, pp. 432–436.
44 Ōkita, S. (1983). Japan's Challenging Years: Reflections on My Lifetime, George Allen and Unwin, Sydney, pp. 9, 16–17.
46 Post-war Reconstruction of the Japanese Economy, September 1946, Special Survey Committee, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan, compiled by Ōkita Saburō, pp. xxvii, 39, 81–82, 91–93, 113–114, 180–181.
47 Post-war Reconstruction of the Japanese Economy, pp. 180–181.
48 For more on these ideas and debates about industrial policy, technology, and economic development in pre-war and wartime Japan, see Mimura, J. (2011). Planning for Empire: Reform Bureaucrats and the Japanese Wartime State, Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London; Gao, B. (1997). Economic Ideology and Japanese Industrial Policy: Developmentalism from 1931 to 1965, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge; Hein, L. (2004). Reasonable Men, Powerful Words: Political Culture and Expertise in Twentieth-Century Japan, Woodrow Wilson Center Press, Washington, DC.
49 Guthrie-Shimizu, S. (2010). ‘Japan, the United States, and the Cold War, 1945–1960’, in Leffler, M.P. and Westad, O.A., The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, Vol. 1, p. 244.
50 Schaller, M. (1985). The American Occupation of Japan: The Origins of the Cold War in Asia, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 25–38.
51 Ibid., p. 88.
52 Swenson-Wright, J. (2005). Unequal Allies? United States Security and Alliance Policy Toward Japan, 1945–1960, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California, pp. 39–47, 57–76; Schaller, The American Occupation of Japan, pp. viii–ix, 104, 298; Guthrie-Shimizu, ‘Japan, the United States, and the Cold War’, pp. 247–251.
53 Drifte, R. (1989). ‘Japan's Involvement in the Korean War’, in Cotton, J. and Neary, I.The Korean War in History, Manchester University Press, Manchester, p. 126; Saburō, Ōkita (1951). Japan's Economy and the Korean War, Far Eastern Survey, 20:14, pp. 141–142.
54 Dower, John W. (1999). Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Aftermath of World War II, Penguin Books, London, pp. 541–543.
55 Guthrie-Shimizu, ‘Japan, the United States, and the Cold War’, p. 257; Schaller, The American Occupation of Japan, p. 289.
56 FMA File No. 105-00089-02, Wo waijiaobu jiu duiRi heyue wenti jinxing de taolunhui jilu (1950 nian 5 yue 12 ri) [Record of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's discussion group on the question of the Peace Treaty with Japan (12 May 1950)], 12 May 1950.
57 FMA File No. 105-00090-01, DuiRi heyue youguan jiechu Riben junbei tiaokuan caoyue’ [Japan Peace Treaty draft protocol concerning the removal of arms from Japan], 21 March 1950, pp. 20, 28, 34–35.
58 Ibid., pp. 38–39.
59 See, for example, Renmin Ribao [People's Daily], Jianjue zhizhi Meiguo zhunbei yuandong xin qinlüe zhanzheng de yinmou [We are determined to stop the U.S. plot to prepare for a new war of aggression in the Far East], 7 May 1952.
60 FMA File No. 105-00090-01, p. 18.
61 Ibid., p. 24.
62 Ibid., p. 24.
63 Kennedy, A.B. (2008). Can the weak defeat the strong? Mao's evolving approach to asymmetric warfare in Yan'an, The China Quarterly, 196, pp. 887–893.
64 Mao Zedong, Guanyu wo jun yingdang ru Chao canzhan gei Zhou Enlai de dianbao [Telegram to Zhou Enlai regarding our military's involvement in the Korean War], 13 October 1950, Jianguo yilai Mao Zedong wengao diyi ce (1949.9–1950.12) [Mao Zedong's Manuscripts Since the Founding of the Republic, Volume 1 (September 1949–December 1950)], (1987), Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, Beijing, p. 556 (emphasis added).
65 Peng Dehuai, Zai Zhongguo renmin zhiyuan junshi yishang ganbu dongyuan dahui shang de jianghua [Speech to the Chinese People's Volunteers senior cadres], 14 October 1950, Peng Dehuai Junshi Wenxuan [Selected Military Works of Peng Dehuai], (1988), Zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, Beijing, pp. 322–323.
66 Cathcart, A. (2010). Japanese devils and American wolves: Chinese communist songs from the War of Liberation and the Korean War, Popular Music and Society, 33:2, pp. 210–212.
67 FMA File No. 118-00118-02, p. 13.
68 Ibid., pp. 17–19.
69 FMA File No. 105-00224-02, p. 10.
70 Ibid, p. 10.
71 FMA File No. 118-00118-02, p. 21.
74 Goncharov, S.N., Lewis, J.W. and Xue, L. (1993). Uncertain Partners: Stalin, Mao, and the Korean War, Stanford University Press, Stanford, p. 180.
75 FMA File No. 105-00077-01, 27 May 1950, Guanyu kaizhan dui Riben zhijie maoyi wenti de baogao [A report on the development of direct trade to Japan], pp. 3–4.
76 FMA File No. 105-00077-02, Riben ZhongRi maoyi cujinhui yaoqiu pai daibiao laihua de qingkuang [The situation regarding the request by Japan's China-Japan Trade Promotion Association representative to visit China], 1 November 1949–1 June 1950, pp. 1, 4–7.
77 FMA File No. 105-00077-01, p. 5.
78 Vogel, E.F. (2005). Chen Yun: his life, Journal of Contemporary China, 14:45, pp. 748–750. It should be noted that Vogel simply refers to these technicians as ‘locals’ and does not draw a distinction between Chinese and Japanese technicians.
79 Chen Yun, Guanyu huifu, jianshe, xinjian gongchang de sheji qingkuang he yijian [The situation and our views on investing in the restoration, reconstruction and building of new factories], 9 February 1952, in Chen Yun Wen Ji [Collected Works of Chen Yun], (2005), Vol. 2, Zhonggong zhongyang wenxian chubanshe, Beijing, p. 356.
80 The United States initiated unilateral controls on its trade with China in December 1950, and in May 1951 ushered in a UN resolution banning trade in ‘strategic goods’ with the People's Republic of China. Zhang, Economic Cold War, pp. 31–39.
82 FMA File No. 118-00118-02, p. 15.
83 Ibid., p. 22.
84 Kyodo, Japanese in Red China reported jailed, 2 March 1952, via Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS).
85 FMA File No. 118-00086-02, p. 5.
86 Gillin and Etter, Staying on, p. 510; Westad, O.A. (2003). Decisive Encounters: The Chinese Civil War, 1946–1950, Stanford University Press, Stanford, p. 84.
87 FMA File No. 118-00118-02, p. 18.
88 FMA File No. 118-00086-02, p. 9.
89 FMA File No. 118-00118-02, pp. 11–16.
90 The decision to frame the Japanese people as victims of imperialism was approved by Premier Zhou Enlai in May 1950. FMA File No. 105-00089-03, Wo waijiaobu jiu duiRi heyue wenti jinxing de taolunhui jilu (yi jiu wu ling nian we yue shi liu ri xiawu ershi) [Records of the meeting held by the Foreign Ministry's Peace Treaty with Japan Discussion Group (2pm, 16 May 1950)], 16 May 1950, pp. 3–4.
91 It is estimated that US$900 million worth of industrial equipment was taken by the Soviets from Manchuria. Cheng, Y.K. (1956). Foreign Trade and Industrial Development of China: An Historical and Integrated Analysis Through 1948, University Press of Washington, DC, Washington, DC, p. 163; Kirby, ‘The Chinese War Economy’, p. 185.
92 The Japanese referred to the steelworks as the ‘Shōwa Steel Works’. Matsutaka, Y.T. (2001). The Making of Japanese Manchuria: 1904–1932, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, pp. 222–223.
93 Zhang, Economic Cold War, pp. 61, 65.
94 Marusawa, Shin-Chugoku Kensetsu, pp. 99, 115–116.
95 Kyodo, Japanese aided Manchurian metallurgy, 15 April 1953, via FBIS.
96 Zhang, Economic Cold War.
97 Marusawa, Shin-Chugoku Kensetsu, p. 139.
98 Shen and Li, After Leaning to One Side, p. 119; Kaple, Dream of a Red Factory, p. 13.
99 FMA File No. 118-00086-02, p. 8.
101 Ibid., pp. 6–7, 18–22.
102 Marusawa, Shin-Chugoku Kensetsu, p. 141.
103 Yang, ‘Resurrecting the Empire?’, p. 200.
104 FMA File No. 118-00086-02, p. 21.
106 Ibid., pp. 18–22.
107 FMA File No. 118-00118-02, pp. 16–17.
108 Ibid., p. 10.
110 Liang, Jianguo chuqi waiqiao guanli gongzuo shuping, p. 52.
111 Ibid., p. 52.
112 Seraphim, F. (2007). People's diplomacy: The Japan-China Friendship Association and critical war memory in the 1950s, Japan Focus, 18 August 2007; Radtke, K.W. (1990). China's Relations with Japan, 1945–1983: The Role of Liao Chengzhi, Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York, pp. 99–100.
113 Radtke, China's Relations with Japan, pp. 99–100.
114 Liang, Jianguo chuqi waiqiao guanli gongzuo shuping, p. 53; Marusawa, Shin-Chugoku Kensetsu, pp. 142–144; Ward, Delaying repatriation, p. 480.
115 Renmin Ribao, Lüda Zhongguo gongren jishu jie de dansheng.
116 Chen, J. (2001). Mao's China and the Cold War, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London, pp. 4–5.
117 Yokoi, Y. (1996). ‘Plant and Technology Contracts and the Changing Pattern of Economic Interdependence between China and Japan to 1989’, in Howe, C.China and Japan: History, Trends and Prospects, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 127–146.
118 Katz R. (2013). Mutual assured production: why trade will limit conflict between China and Japan, Foreign Affairs, July/August, pp. 18–24.
119 On the role of industry and technology in modernizing China's military, see Cheung, T.M. (2009). Fortifying China: The Struggle to Build a Modern Defense Economy, Cornell University Press, Ithaca; and You, J. (1999). The Armed Forces of China, Allen and Unwin, Sydney, pp. 56–84. On the role of technology in modernizing China's economy, see Kennedy, A.B. (2013). China's search for renewable energy: pragmatic techno-nationalism, Asian Survey, 53:5, pp. 913–919.
* I am grateful to Mariko Yamamoto for superb research assistance, and to Rana Mitter, Henrietta Harrison, Evelyn Goh, participants in the University of Leeds’ Sino-Japanese Relations Research Network, participants in the Bristol University ‘China in Transition (1945–1955)’ workshop, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions. The ‘China in Transition (1945–1955)’ workshop where this article was presented was funded by the Leverhulme Trust's China's War with Japan programme at Oxford University and the British Inter-University China Centre.
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