Rivers of Empire, Trees of Nation: Environment and State in China’s Inner Asian Frontiers
4: Planting National Trees in the Borderlands: The Ecological Impact of Republican National Forest Policy on Jilin Province
Friday, March 25, 2022
9:30am – 11:00am EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
Quinnipiac University, United States
Throughout the Qing Dynasty the Chinese government administered borderland regions through the Lifan Yuan, which operated separately from administrative organs that managed the Han Heartland. The Republic that emerged after the fall of the Qing endeavored to structure its administration on “modern” principles. In terms of borderland governance, this meant that there would no longer be separate rules and institutions for borderlands management. Officials looked to develop a singular code of national laws and policies that would apply to all Chinese territory. In this paper I show how specific concerns about the decline of timber resources in Manchuria – specifically Jilin Province – fostered the creation of national forest legislation in 1914. The creators of this legislation also took into account the perceived needs of the denuded Han Heartland by enforcing reforestation as national policy. This resulted in attempts to transform the entirety of Jilin Province’s landscape, despite the fact that parts of the province were unsuitable to tree-planting. I argue that this trend reflected a larger shift to national rather than borderlands resource management, one that was less sensitive to the ecological needs of the region.