2. PARIS OF THE EAST: NANJING
The National Government aimed to make its mark on China first in its new national capital, the old "southern capital," or Nanjing. Although a former dynastic capital and, very briefly, the seat of the first government of the Republic, it was better known in modern times for "sieges, sacks, massacres, rapine, conflagration and destruction." During the civil wars of the mid-nineteenth century it had been utterly destroyed, first by the Taiping rebels, who made it their "heavenly capital," and then by vengeful Qing loyalists. It had been a battleground again in 1911 and 1913. The Nationalists' "Nanjing decade" began in 1927, with their military occupation of the city, and it would end in 1937 with the city's conquest and "rape" at the hands of the Japanese; in between, however, the Nationalists tried to build a capital worthy of their dreams.
Their model capital was inherited in a sorry state. Writers could praise Nan-jing's scenic qualities because much of the city had become "a veritable rus in urbe" in the past century: "One finds inside the citywalls of Nanking waste spaces, ponds, and patches of cultivated land scattered here and there in the same way as they are outside of the walls." Its population was about one-third of what it had been in early Ming times, when more than 1 million inhabited Nanjing. As a modern city it was "notorious for its dim electric light, narrow and uneven roads, and poor telephone service," not to mention its mud and mosquitoes. There was no sewage system save the infested canals, which served as a source of drinking water for the city's poor. All this was but a challenge. A new Nanjing might be created from nearly nothing: it could become what we might think of today as a Chinese Brasilia.
Within a year of the founding of the regime, the Office of Technical Experts for Planning the National Capital under the leadership of an American-trained engineer had developed a detailed and beautifully illustrated design for a reconstructed Nanjing. The city's boundaries were vastly expanded to house both the new government and (planning rather too conservatively into the next century) an anticipated population of 2 million. Rail connections were to be enhanced and a huge airport built. Detailed plans were drawn for modern sewage, drinking water, and electric power systems. A new government district of nearly ten square kilometers was be erected on the site just west of the old Ming palace, south of the
It will be obvious to a visitor to contemporary Nanjing, which today looks more a provincial than a national capital, that not all these things were built. A few were, some in dramatic fashion: Zhongshan lu was bulldozed forty meters wide through the city center to honor the guofu and was rushed to completion in time for Sun's interment in his stately mausoleum in June 1929. Residents in the way were given ten days to leave their homes. The new center of the city, Xinjiekou, where Zhongshan lu converged with other main arteries, was turned into a large concrete rotary. The central buildings of the party-state were indeed located near an old palace—but in rather more modest quarters in the old Taiping palace grounds. Government ministries, after several years of being housed in borrowed and occupied buildings, were gradually moved to more properly ministerial quarters. And massive numbers of trees were planted. Seedlings imported from France would later shade a Communist Nanjing.
The most telling point about Nanjing's facelift was that it was planned. Nanjing was the first Chinese city to employ comprehensive zoning and planning regulations designed according to international standards. Its Office of Technical Experts drafted the national legislation for municipal planning and zoning. A National Capital Reconstruction Commission was organized in 1929 to carry out a six-year plan to build municipal services, parks, roads, and housing. In this it was led by its engineering division and a force of city planning engineers. If Nanjing today can lay claim to being "one of the most beautiful, clean, and well-planned cities in China," this is due in part to the determined efforts of Nationalist engineers and public works officials—and to the fact that their most outlandish schemes were unrealized.
There is a long history in China of planning capital cities and their official edifices. What distinguished the Nationalist regime was its confidence in its ability to plan, first for the capital and then for the entire country, on an international technological standard. This was a faith so widely shared in the new National Government that the mission of "reconstruction" was undertaken initially by almost every arm of it.
Electrifying China. A Reconstruction Ministry (Jianshebu) was created in January 1928, fittingly enough with Sun Yatsen's son, Sun Ke (Sun Fo), as minister. "Reconstruction," Sun Ke said upon taking his post, "is of course the first and foremost goal of the Revolution." Sun Ke's faith in government planning had been tested in Canton, where as mayor he had presided over the introduction of modern sewers and public utilities. Sun Ke was reconstruction minister for only six days when he undertook a six-month European tour to win foreign investment for his father's plans. His trip was a total flop, and while he was away his ministry was abolished; but he returned to China undeterred and drafted a fifty-year plan to construct the railways, harbors, and industries that Sun Yatsen had envisioned. This Jianshe dagang cao'an (Draft plan for [realization of] the fundamentals of national reconstruction) became Guomindang policy in November 1928. For a few years Sun Ke could pursue one part of this plan in his new capacity as minister of railways, but the larger task of planning and coordinating "reconstructive" enterprises had fallen to a new National Reconstruction Commission.
Established in February 1928, the National Reconstruction Commission (Jian-she weiyuanwei) was composed of some thirty-nine members, including all ministers of cabinet rank, all heads of provincial Reconstruction Bureaux (jiansheting), and the mayors of Nanjing and Shanghai municipalities. Although deputed to "research, prepare, and complete a Reconstruction Plan for the Whole Country" in the "spirit" of Sun Yatsen's guidelines, it quickly focused on electrification. It seemed to follow (with the proper political substitutions) Lenin's famous dictum that Communism meant "Soviet Power plus the electrification of the whole country." Sun Yatsen had been almost as eloquent on this subject as Lenin: he had urged electrification in writings and speeches since 1894. Civilization, he later wrote, was defined by the "age of electricity." In 1924 he had told his Guomindang comrades that "if China wants to learn the strong points from foreign counties, it should, first of all, try to use electricity rather than coal as an energy source."(Just how Sun thought electricity would be generated is not clear.) As Yun Zhen, a young engineer in the National Reconstruction Commission who would later direct much of China's electrical industries, recalled: electric power, which would promote industry and commerce, permit the exploitation of natural resources, and increase agricultural production, was considered "the people's salvation."
The National Reconstruction Commission began by drafting a grandiose, Soviet-style plan for lighting up the country. "Super-power" stations linked by high-tension transmission lines would supply large areas, and their substations
The commission had to compromise both on the scope of its plans and on principles of ownership of the Chinese electrical power enterprise. It was the first National Government agency to confront directly the ambiguities of Sun Yatsen's economic thought regarding what should be "public" (and government owned) and what should remain in the private sphere. In principle, electrical enterprises of the large scale planned by the commission ought to have been of "strategic" importance and under government ownership. The power works at Nanjing were indeed nationalized. But the large majority of China's 575 electrical power enterprises were privately run and of very small size, and the commission had neither the mannor, as it turned out, the willpower to take them over. Only seventeen plants were government owned by 1930, and to preclude further nationalizations a National Association of Private Electric Power Enterprises (Quanguo minying dianye lianhehui) organized in 1929 to plead its collective case to Nanjing.
The commission faced fiscal reality—the small financial capacity of the new government compared with its large aims—by evolving quickly into a regulatory body for what now began to be considered "public utilities": gongyong shiye (publicly used enterprises) that would not be gongying shiye (publicly run enterprises). The government still had a strong role to play, however. Regulations for electrical enterprises promulgated in 1930 standardized technical systems among electric power firms and required government approval for any new electrical utilities or for the issuance of bonds to expand old ones. In its regulatory capacity the commission authored regulations that covered a broad range of other services and enterprises, including public waterworks, gas companies, trolley and autobus lines, radio stations, shipping companies, and (just being formed) commercial airlines. The government reserved the right to regulate prices and profit margins for twenty (later thirty) years, and could determine how "excess" annual profits (defined as in excess of 25 percent of capital) would be reinvested (e.g., in plant expansion, employee pension funds, etc.).
The commission's regulatory initiatives were symptomatic of one pattern of state intrusion into the economy that marked the early Nationalist years. Before 1927, Chinese industry and commerce had been "comparatively free from legislative and administrative control of a regular nature." The first years of Nationalist rule, however, saw passage of a considerable body of legislation affecting commerce and industry, including a Law of Insurance (1929), Maritime Law (1929), Negotiable Instruments Law (1929), Trademark Law (1930), and a new Company Law (1929), which regulated the organizational structure of private corporations. Private businesses were subjected to a broad range of new taxes, inspections,
The regulatory approach to economic development was pushed perhaps farthest in the case of government intervention to modernize one of China's oldest industries, that of silk manufacturing, as will be discussed below. But regulation alone could not accomplish the Industrial Plan or entice the foreign assistance that was essential to it. As the National Reconstruction Commission withdrew to an oversight and regulatory role, its original mandate, to coordinate all economic development efforts, fell in 1931 to another bureaucratic superbody, the National Economic Council (NEC, Quanguo jingji weiyuanhui). The list of its putative powers was impressive and included authority over all publicly financed projects for economic development. But it was above all a vehicle for cooperation with the closest equivalent of Palchinsky's "Tekhintern," the League of Nations.