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State-Building after Disaster: Jiang Tingfu and the Reconstruction of Post-World War II China, 1943–1949

  • Rana Mitter (a1)


Post-World War II reconstruction in Europe and Asia is a topic of growing interest, but relatively little attention has been paid to the relief and rehabilitation effort in China in the immediate post-1945 period. This article reassesses the postwar program implemented by the Chinese Nationalist (Guomindang) government and the UNRRA (the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration), not just in terms of humanitarian relief, but also as part of a process that led to new thinking about the nature of the postwar state in Asia. It focuses on the ideas and actions of Jiang Tingfu (T. F. Tsiang), head of the Chinese National Relief and Rehabilitation Administration that worked with UNRRA. Chinese ideas for reconstruction in China were simultaneously statist, international, and transnational, and were shaped by high modern ideas drawn from Soviet and American examples. They were also influenced by China's poverty and wartime vulnerability, which made locally directed solutions more relevant in areas such as public hygiene. Success was unlikely because of the incipient Chinese Civil War and the huge demands of reconstruction on a state that was near-destitute, with a destroyed infrastructure. Nonetheless, its characteristics still bear examination as a first, tentative chapter in a longer story of post-imperialist and Cold War state-building that would shape countries in Asia and beyond.


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1 Tingfu, Jiang (Tsiang, T. F.), “The Problems of China,” in Hongmin, Chen, ed., Meiguo Hafo daxue Hafo Yanjing tushuguancang Jiang Tingfu ziliao (“The Tsiang Ting-fu Collection in the Harvard-Yenching Library, Harvard University, USA”), 24 vols. (Guilin: Guangxi shifan daxue chubanshe, 2015) (hereafter MHD), vol. 21, 528.

2 Ibid., 531.

3 I use this Romanization because it is widely recognized, but for other Chinese names, I use the now standard pinyin system.

4 The classic statement on this is Shumacher, E. F., Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered (London, 1973).

5 One recent point of entry to a growing literature is Mazower, Mark, Reinisch, Jessica, and Feldman, David, eds., “Post-War Reconstruction in Europe: International Perspectives, 1945–1949,” Past & Present, supplement 6 (2011).

6 Gluck, Carol, “The ‘End’ of the Postwar: Japan at the Turn of the Millennium,” Public Culture 10, 1 (Fall 1997): 123.

7 Khan, Yasmin, The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan (New Haven, 2007).

8 For a contemporaneous discussion of ECAFE, see Schaaf, C. Hart, “The United Nations Commission for Asia and the Far East,” International Organization 7, 4 (Nov. 1953): 463–81.

9 See Muscolino, Micah, The Ecology of War in China: Henan Province, the Yellow River, and Beyond, 1938–1950 (Cambridge, 2015).

10 A major study is Westad, Odd Arne, Decisive Encounters: The Chinese Civil War, 1946–1950 (Stanford, 2003).

11 See articles in the European Journal of East Asian Studies special issue on relief and rehabilitation in wartime China, 11, 2, (Dec. 2012).

12 On Jiang's political thinking, see Fung, Edmund S. K., The Intellectual Foundations of Chinese Modernity: Cultural and Political Thought in the Republican Era (Cambridge, 2010), 97, 134.

13 A detailed study of Jiang's life is Yulong, Zhang, Jiang Tingfu shehui zhengzhi sixiang yanjiu (Research on the social and political thought of Jiang Tingfu) (Beijing, 2008).

14 Jiang Tingfu, “He wei diguozhuyi?” (What is meant by imperialism?), speech originally delivered 13 Apr. 1936, in Tingfu, Jiang, Jiang Tingfu xuanji (Selected works of Jiang Tingfu) (Taipei: Zhuanji wenxue chubanshe, 1978) (hereafter JTF), 629.

15 Jiang Tingfu, “Zhongguo jindaihua de wenti” (The problem of Chinese modernization), originally in Duli pinglun (1937), JTF, 640.

16 Kirby, William C., “The Chinese War Economy,” in Hsiung, James C. and Levine, Steven I., eds., China's Bitter Victory: The War with Japan (Armonk, 1992), 192–94.

17 Tingfu, Jiang, “Mantan zhishifenzi de shidai shiming” (Discussing the contemporary destiny of the intellectuals), originally in Shiji pinglun 1, 24 (14 June 1947), JTF, 672.

18 “Mantan zhishifenzi,” 672.

19 On prewar development, see Zanasi, Margherita, “Exporting Development: The League of Nations and Republican China,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 49, 1 (Jan. 2007): 143–69.

20 Zhang Yulong, Jiang, 236–39. Woodbridge, George, ed., UNRRA: The History of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (New York, 1950), vol. 2, 376–77.

21 Woodbridge, UNRRA, 376–77.

22 Ibid.; Zhang, Jiang Tingfu, 240.

23 Zhang, Jiang Tingfu, 251.

24 United Nations Archive, New York (hereafter, UNA): UNA S-0528-0053, China Weekly Reports, 1944–45, report by William J. Green, “Food Production in Liberated Areas in Kweichow and Kwangsi Province,” 25 June 1945, 2.

25 UNA S-0528-0053, China Weekly Reports, 1944–45, E. T. Nash report on “UNRRA and Its Plans for China,” 21 Aug. 1945.

26 Ibid.

27 Zhang, Jiang Tingfu, 251.

28 Ma, Tehyun, “‘The Common Aim of the Allied Powers’: Social Policy and International Legitimacy in Wartime China, 1940–47,” Journal of Global History 9, 2 (2014): 254–75.

29 For the prewar path to this model, see Bian, Morris, The Making of the State Enterprise System in Modern China: The Dynamics of Institutional Change (Cambridge, Mass., 2005).

30 Zhongyang ribao (8 Dec. 1945), cited in Zhang, Jiang Tingfu, 253.

31 Jiang Tingfu, “Shanhou jiuji zongshu: gan shenme? Zenme gan?” (UNRRA: what should it do, and how?), in Zhang, Jiang Tingfu, 242.

32 Jiang, “Shanhou jiuji,” in Zhang, Jiang Tingfu, 243, 244–45.

33 Woodbridge, UNRRA, 377.

34 Zhang, Jiang Tingfu, 245.

35 Woodbridge, UNRRA, 389.

36 For postwar Chinese diplomatic planning, see Liu, Xiaoyuan, A Partnership for Disorder: China, the United States, and Their Policies for the Postwar Disposition of the Japanese Empire, 1941–1945 (Cambridge, UK, 1996).

37 Zanasi, “Exporting Development.”

38 UNA S-0528-0032, Correspondence, Chungking to Washington, D.C. headquarters, 1944–1949, Price to Arnold, 31 Dec. 1944.

39 Ibid.

40 See Van de Ven, Hans J., War and Nationalism in China, 1925–1945 (London, 2003), ch. 1.

41 Jiang Tingfu, “The Situation in China,” speech to Republican Club, Washington, D.C. ([?], 14 Jan. 1949), in MHD, vol. 21, 511.

42 Ibid.

43 UNA S-0528-0032, Correspondence, Chungking to Washington, D.C. headquarters, 1944–1949, Kizer to M. Menshikov (UNRRA Deputy Director-General), 7 Feb. 1945.

44 Jiang, “Problem,” 531.

45 Ibid., 532.

46 Ibid., 512.

47 Ibid., 532.

48 Woodbridge, UNRRA, 371.

49 Ibid., 399–400.

50 Jiang Tingfu, “The Far Eastern Crisis,” speech given at the Indianapolis English Speaking Union, 1 Mar. 1951, MHD, vol. 21, 553.

51 Jiang Tingfu, Zhengzhi ziyou yu jingji ziyou (“Political freedom and economic freedom”), originally in Shiji pinglun, 26 Apr. 1947, in JTF, 665.

52 See essays in European Journal of East Asian Studies 11, 2 (2012).

53 Rogaski, Ruth, Hygienic Modernity: Meanings of Health and Disease in Treaty-Port China (Berkeley, 2004); and Ferlanti, Federica, “The New Life Movement at War: Wartime Mobilization and State Control in Chongqing and Chengdu, 1938–1942,” European Journal of East Asian Studies 11, 2 (2012): 187212.

54 Sichuan Provincial Archives, 113–16: Minguo 30–33/1941–1944, “Zhongyang weisheng shiyanyuan … banfa” (Methods … of the central government hygiene experimentation institute), correspondence, Mar. 1944.

55 Ibid.

56 Ibid.

57 Ibid.

58 UNA S-0528-0053, China Weekly Reports, 1944–45, report by Price, UNRRA China Office, “Immediate Problems of Relief and Rehabilitation,” 23 Aug. 1945, 1.

59 Ibid.

60 Ibid., 8–9.

61 Ibid., 8.

62 UNA S-0528-0053, China Weekly Reports, 1944–45, report by William J. Green, “Food Production in Liberated Areas in Kweichow and Kwangsi Province,” 25 June 1945, 11.

63 UNA S-0528-0058, Honan, 1944–1949, famine report by Raymond T. Moyer and Mildred Bonnell, 3 Nov.–6 Dec. 1945.

64 Ibid.

65 Ibid.

66 Jiang Tingfu, “Lun guoli de yuansu” (The factors for national strength), originally in Xin jingji yuekan, 16 Nov. 1938, in JTF, 651.

67 Duara, Prasenjit, Culture, Power and the State; Rural North China, 1900–1942 (Stanford, 1988).

68 On disruption, see Muscolino, Ecology of War; on partial reconstruction, see Lincoln, Toby, Urbanizing China in War and Peace: The Case of Wuxi County (Honolulu, 2015).

69 UNA S-0528-0009, Famine Surveys, report by Harold Matthews, “Observations and Experiences on Highway from Hengyang to Leiyang,” n.d., 1946, 2–3.

70 Ibid., 3.

71 UNA S-0528-0009, Famine Surveys, report by Vera McCord, “Welfare Wurvey: Ling-ling Area, Hunan Province,” n.d., 1946, 2.

72 UNA S-0528-0009, Famine Surveys, report by C. F. Wang, Enid Fisher, and Anne Huizenga, “Nutrition Survey, Hengyang-Lingling Region,” n.d., 1946, 1.

73 Amrith, Sunil and Clavin, Patricia, “Feeding the World: Connecting Europe and Asia,” Past and Present (2013, suppl. 8): 2950, 38.

74 Ibid., 46.

75 Woodbridge, UNRRA, 386–87.

76 Ibid., 406.

77 McCord, “Welfare Survey.”

78 UNA S-0528-0009, Famine surveys, report by Enid Fisher, “Welfare Survey, Hengyang Area, Hunan Province,” n.d., ca. 1946.

79 Fisher, “Welfare Survey”; Matthews, “Welfare Survey.”

80 McCord, “Welfare Survey.” One li is about 500 meters.

81 Moyer and Bonnell, “Report,” 1–2.

82 Ibid., 2.

83 UNA S-0528-0032, Lund to Edgerton, “Taiyuanfu-Shansi: Confidential,” 10 Dec. 1946.

84 UNA S-0528-0032, Grant cable to UNRRA Shanghai, 27 Nov. 1946.

85 UNRRA Relief for the Chinese People: A Report by CLARA (Shanghai: Information Office of the Chinese Liberated Areas Relief Association, 1947), 1.

86 Zhang, Jiang Tingfu, 255.

87 Shenbao, 12 July 1946, cited in Zhang, Jiang Tingfu, 257.

88 Zhang, Jiang Tingfu, 258.

89 Woodbridge, UNRRA, 409, 412, 452–53.

90 Helleiner, Eric, Forgotten Foundations of Bretton Woods: International Development and the Making of the Postwar Order (Ithaca, 2014).

91 Jiang, Mantan zhishifenzi, JTF, 674.

92 Jiang, “Situation,” 508.

93 Ibid.

94 Rostow, W. W., The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (Cambridge, UK, 1960).

95 Lin, Hsiao-ting, Accidental State: Chiang Kai-shek, the United States, and the Making of Taiwan (Cambridge, Mass., 2016), esp. ch. 8.

96 Jiang, “Problems,” 537.

97 Jiang, “The Asian Half of the World,” speech at University of Washington, 16 Feb. 1950, MHD vol. 21, 544.


State-Building after Disaster: Jiang Tingfu and the Reconstruction of Post-World War II China, 1943–1949

  • Rana Mitter (a1)


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