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Concrete, Forests, and Farming: Mobilizing Imperial Peripheries for Japan after the Roaring ‘20s

Thu, March 15, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Riverside Convention Center, MR 10

Abstract

The establishment of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo and expansion of economic development across its imperial territories gave the Japanese empire access to new resources and markets in 1932. These resources, including minerals, forests, and foodstuffs, were considered by Japan’s military and economic leaders essential for economic recovery and imperial expansion following the Wall Street crash of 1929. As Louise Young has described for Manchuria, thousands of idealistic engineers, most connected with the Home Ministry, flocked to Manchukuo to construct the infrastructure of a modern state: roads, railroads, canals, ports, water works, and communications networks. All of these projects of empire required vast quantities of cement, other mineral products, timber, and even food stuffs, in Manchuria as well as Japanese island territories. Based on a perception of military and imperial “needs”, Japan focused incredible efforts on Manchukuo and fortifying the island regions during the interwar period—but also faced strong opposition from international bodies, powers, and above all, the Chinese that lived in Manchuria. This paper will examine where the resources in question came from and how they were deployed, how Chinese and other locals perceived and were implicated in mobilizing “Japanese” resources, and address elements of the environmental legacy of Japanese imperial footprint during the interwar period.

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