Made in Manchuria: the transnational origins of socialist industrialization in Maoist China

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


With its high concentration of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in heavy industry, Manchuria (Northeast China) functioned as a symbol of the “socialist industrialization” in the early years of the People’s Republic of China (PRC, 1949–). Many Manchurian SOEs nevertheless originated as Japanese colonial enterprises founded before 1945. Drawing on archives and interviews in Chinese, Japanese, English, and Russian, I trace industrial Manchuria’s transformation before and after the Communist Revolution with a particular focus on Anshan Iron and Steel Works (Angang). I argue that the industrial legacies of imperial Japan and Nationalist China in Manchuria facilitated China’s transition to a Soviet-style socialist planned economy under Mao Zedong’s leadership (1949–76). The early PRC developed a new system of socialist industrialization by simultaneously learning from Soviet economic planning and deploying physical assets, human resources, and economic institutions left by the Japanese and the Nationalists. My findings expand on recent scholarship on the pre-Communist origins of the early PRC by elucidating the significance of the Japanese influence. More broadly, I also argue that China’s socialist industrialization was decisively influenced by the global spread of state-directed developmental visions during the interwar period, thereby demonstrating the fundamental interconnectedness between capitalism and socialism in the twentieth century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1072-1101
Number of pages30
JournalThe American Historical Review
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

Cite this