China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This panel honors Sherman Cochran’s lifelong work on Chinese economic history, in which he emphasized extensive archival research and sensitivity to local and global contexts. The three panelists aim to continue their mentor's efforts by addressing a salient theme in this field: resources. In a material sense, any resource is measurable, yet human intervention makes its usage much more flexible. The availability of resources, in turn, shapes human behavior such as state policy. Restlessly reshaping and transforming natural endowments through technological innovation, human intervention mobilizes resources for wide-ranging and shifting purposes in political, economic, domestic, and international realms.
The three papers look into how Chinese states and society have mobilized certain key resources at several moments from the Qing dynasty to the People's Republic. Emily Hill examines an unexpected food crisis in Chiang Kai-shek's Taiwan at a time of expanding grain production and decreasing exports. She shows how state manipulation turned rice, a critical resource, into a weapon in international relations and domestic politics. Kenneth Pomeranz focuses on China’s Xinjiang region and explores two centuries of evolution in official approaches toward extracting the region's resources and managing the attendant political risks. Lu Yan turns to urban Beijing's grassroots society, investigating the emergence of the urban commune in neighborhood communities during the Great Leap Forward, and tracing the commune's long-term impact on economic development in the PRC.