China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - Challenges of Transition: Chinese Industrial Cooperatives from War to Peace

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Roosevelt Room 2, Exhibit Level

Chinese Industrial Cooperatives, or Indusco as it was known outside of China, was a semi-NGO that emerged from wartime China.  Envisioned by a few China-based foreign journalists, the initiative gained Chinese government support and enacted a vision of reconstruction amidst the destruction of war.  Officially named Chinese Industrial Cooperatives (CIC), it organized refugees and local residents into thousands of small cooperatives across China, thus transforming a large number of dependent members of society into a productive labor force.  Sustained by government funds and overseas donations, these cooperatives produced a variety of industrial goods that met civilian and military needs when China's industrial capacity was drastically reduced by the war.


Although CIC became well known through the reports by a few Americans during the Sino-Japanese War, it has received little scholarly attention.  Drawing on archival sources from Chongqing and New York as well as personal memoirs, this paper explores the inspiration and operations of the CIC.  It argues that the idea of "reconstruction" embodied by the CIC looked beyond war to peace and was key to bringing together people of different nationalities across a wide political spectrum and ideological differences. This broad coalition persevered under the extraordinary adversity of a devastating war, but confronted clashing priorities by participating parties when peace (or pseudo-peace) dawned after 1945. As a form of industrial operation, the model survived the 1949 transition and found its reincarnations in many small industrial operations across urban China well into the 1980s.

Yan Lu

University of New Hampshire, New Hampshire

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