Reconstructing China: Japanese technicians and industrialization in the early years of the People's Republic of China

Amy King*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)141-174
    Number of pages34
    JournalModern Asian Studies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


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