chapter  10
24 Pages

Engineering China: Birth of the Development State, 1928–1937

ByWilliam C. Kirby

In December 1926, the engineer Peter Palchinsky wrote to the prime minister of the Soviet Union. Science and technology, he argued, did more—even than Communism!—to shape modern society. The National Government aimed to make its mark on China first in its new national capital, the old "southern capital," or Nanjing. A National Capital Reconstruction Commission was organized in 1929 to carry out a six-year plan to build municipal services, parks, roads, and housing. Cooperation had begun in principle but not yet in fact when, in the summer of 1931, Yangzi River floods resulted in the deaths of six hundred thousand Chinese. The National Resources Commission stands out as the most comprehensive attempt to apply science and engineering to government work and the unfinished task of "reconstruction." "Constructive imagination" was certainly at the heart of Sun's grand project, which proved at once an inspiration and, because it could not possibly be realized, a burden to the National Government.