To view this PAPER PRESENTATION, search for the session title in the Browse by Titlelisting. (See the session title located immediately below ["In Session:"])
In Session: New Perspectives on Economic Life and Imperial Formations in Early Modern and Modern Asia
3: Competing Imperialism and Industrial Forestry in the Yalu River Frontier (1904-1932)
Thursday, March 25, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China
Since the seventeenth century, the Qing Empire had made a significant part of the Changbai Mountain forests—along the Yalu River—royal reserves, and forbade any Korean and Chinese civilians to enter. The purpose was to worship the Manchu’s sacred homeland and to create a Qing-Chosŏn buffer zone by maintaining an unexploited environmental frontier. However, the late nineteenth century witnessed radical changes in Northeast China. The second industrial revolution generated unprecedented demand for wood used in mines, railroads, and construction in East Asia. Heavily laden with timbers at a key geopolitical place, the land of Northeast China soon became sites of encounter and social contestation. The triumphs of both the Sino-Japanese war (1894-1895) and the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905) underpinned Japan’s position in Northeast Asia and thus paved the way for its military and extractive resource management in the Yalu River Basin. With the establishment of the Sino-Japanese Yalu River Logging Company in 1908, Japan managed to build up its “lumbering empire” at the borderland of the Qing and Korean states. This paper focuses on the relationship between global capitalism, forest extraction, and frontier formation, in the transition from “agricultural logging” to “industrial lumbering” in the Yalu River forests. It reviews the commercialization and industrialization of Northeast China’s frontier forests and discusses how the new forces of Russo-Japanese competing imperialism, the rising of the lumber industry informed by new technologies of sawmills, and the multi-national labor tensions reshaped the natural and political landscape of the Sino-Korea forest frontier.