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Prior to 1600, Manchuria's indigenous people's traded horses, furs, and medicines for grain, cloth, and metals. In the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) the content of export trade changed. Though migration to Manchuria was prohibited, Han Chinese settled illegally on its fertile plains. By 1850 there were perhaps 5 million people and 4 million hectares of farmland and, in 1912, 18 million people and 8 million hectares. Migration transformed Manchuria into a "breadbasket," generating exportable grain and soybeans surpluses. In return, settlers were a significant market for cotton cloth and raw cotton, the cultivation of which was unsuited to Manchuria's short growing season. By 1800 grains, soybeans, and cotton goods made up nearly the full extent of the Manchurian trade.

Judging from population and acreage estimates, around 1850 Manchuria perhaps exported 330,000 tons of soybeans and at least as much in grain annually. By 1900 the relative balance of grain and soybeans exports had reversed, with 600,000 to 700,000 tons of soybeans and 300,000 tons of grain exported. Cotton cloth imports were perhaps 8 and 21 million bolts in 1850 and 1900, respectively.

The state started to monitor the Manchurian trade in 1707 when a customs office was established at Niuzhuang, at the mouth of the Liao River. Until 1772 the duty of Manchuria's customs offices was enforcing a ban against grain exports, limits on soybean exports, and the imperial monopoly on the ginseng export trade. After 1772 unrestricted export of grain and soybeans was permitted, unless famine required export prohibitions.

Initially, Zhili and Shandong provinces were the primary markets for Manchurian exports. By 1770 the main market for Manchurian goods had shifted to Shanghai, and it shifted again to Hong Kong in the 1860s when the Taiping Rebellion disrupted the Jiangnan economy. After importation, the soybeans were rendered into oil and the residue "beancake" was used as a fertilizer applied to paddy, cotton, and sugarcane fields of Jiangnan, Fujian, and Guangdong.

The Treaty of Tianjin (1858) forced open to foreign vessels the port at Yingkou—Manchuria's principal port after 1831—and an Imperial Customs Office was established at Niuzhuang (Newchwang) to monitor and collect tax on that trade, remaining active until 1931.

By 1890 Japan was Manchuria's main trading partner, and the principal importer of its soybeans, soybean oil, and beancake. With World War I, Europe also began to import Manchuria's soybeans for the glycerine and fatty acids needed in the manufacture of gunpowder, medicines, and soap. In 1931 Manchuria's soybean exports peaked at 5 million tons, and Manchuria met 60 percent of the world's soybean demand. In the 1930s soybean exports fell by one-third, returning to pre-1920 levels, and agriculture did not recover from the Great Depression until after 1949.

As a share of total exports, agricultural goods shrank between 1920 and 1940—reflecting agriculture's decline as a share of gross domestic product from 50 to 34 percent—as Japanese capital investment in factories, mines, railway, and trade transformed Manchuria's economy and trade. After acquiring the Kwantung territory in 1905, the Japanese state established the Southern Manchurian Railway Company, a public company with holdings in transportation, manufacturing, mining, and trade to function as the semiofficial arm of colonial planners by directing investment in key areas. After Japan's seizure of all of Manchuria in 1931, colonial planners targeted the development of heavy industry and mining to meet Japan's military needs. Subsequently, approximately 6 billion yen was exported from Japan to Manchuria, the bulk from zaibatsu banks (large company banks that lent primarily to house companies). Manchuria's balance of trade with Japan reversed, as imports of Japanese producer goods exceeded the value of all exports.

After World War II Manchuria was returned to China, and the new communist government continued to invest in state-owned heavy industry, targeting mining, iron and steel, gas and petroleum, and producer goods. In the 1950s and 1960s Manchuria exported grain, soybeans, soybean oil, coal, and lumber to the USSR and received in return automobiles, cloth, fuel oils, and plastics. By the 1980s Liaoning was one of China's most urbanized and industrialized provinces: two-thirds of manufactured goods came from heavy industry, and heavy-industry goods accounted for three-quarters of the province's exports.

In 2002 the northeast's exports were valued at $16 billion. Principal goods were soybeans and other grains, textiles and clothing, consumer electronics, furniture, steel, cement, automobiles, and machines. Trading partners include Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Russia, the Republic of Korea, and the United States. In 2000, total imports amounted to US$11 billion. Major goods imported include fuels, lubricants, machines, plastics, scrap metals and chemicals. Since economic reforms of the early 1990s, there has been significant de-industrialization as the state-owned factories are abandoned, sold off, or closed. There is now large-scale unemployment among the urban population. For the first time in recent history, people are leaving the northeast for other parts of the country.

SEE ALSO Cotton; Drugs, Illicit; Empire, Japanese; Empire, Ming; Empire, Qing; Furs; Imperial Maritime Customs, China; Iron and Steel; Japan; Korea; Shanghai; Russia; Textiles; Timber; Tobacco; Tribute System.


Chao, Kang. The Economic Development of Manchuria: The Rise of a Frontier Economy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1983.

Nakagane, Katsuji. "Manchukuo and Economic Development." In The Japanese Informal Empire in China, 1895–1937, ed. P. Duus, R. Myers, and M. Peattie. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989.

Sun, Kungtu C. The Economic Development of Manchuria in the First Half of the Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1969.

Young, Louise. Japan's Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Christopher Isett

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Manchuria (mănchŏŏr´ēə), Mandarin Dongbei sansheng [three northeastern provinces], region, c.600,000 sq mi (1,554,000 sq km), NE China. It is officially known as the Northeast. Manchuria is separated from Russia largely by the Amur, Argun, and Ussuri rivers, from North Korea by the Yalu and Tumen rivers, and from Mongolia by the Da Hinggan (Great Khingan) Mts. It includes the Liaodong peninsula. Until 1860 it included territory now in Siberia and until 1955 territory now in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region. Provincial divisions have changed frequently, but since 1956 Manchuria has comprised Jilin, Heilongjiang, and Liaoning provs. Much of the region is hilly to mountainous. The Da and Xiao Hinggan (Great and Lesser Khingan) in the north and the Changbai in the east are the greatest ranges.

Land and Economy

Manchuria's vast timber reserves have been damaged by excessive cutting. Mineral resources, chiefly coal and iron, are concentrated in the southwest; there is a large colliery at Fushun and a large steel mill at Anshan. Magnesite, copper, lead, and zinc are also important, and there is a large oil field at Daqing, NW of Harbin. Uranium and gold deposits have also been found.

The great Manchurian plain (average elevation c.1,000 ft/300 m), crossed by the Liao and Songhua rivers, is the only extensively level area. Fertile and densely populated, it has been a major manufacturing and agricultural center of China. One of the few areas in the country suitable for large-scale mechanized agriculture, it has numerous collective farms. Long, severe winters limit harvests to one a year, but considerable quantities of soybeans are produced. Sweet potatoes, beans, and cereals (including rice, wheat, millet, and kaoliang) are also grown, and cotton, flax, and sugar beets are raised as industrial crops. The processing of soybeans into oil, animal feed, and fertilizer is centered in cities in or near the plain, notably Changchun, Harbin, and Shenyang. Livestock are raised in the north and the west, and fishing is important off the Yellow Sea coast.

The chief commercial port is Dalian; Lüshun, which is administratively part of Dalian, is a major naval base. All rivers are navigable, but only the Songhua has significant heavy traffic. When the rivers freeze, they are used as roadways. An extensive rail system connects the hinterland with the coastal ports; major lines are the South Liaoning RR and the Northeast RR. The building of the railroads (after 1896) spurred industrial development. Manchuria is a great industrial hub, with huge coal mines, iron- and steelworks, aluminum-reduction plants, paper mills, and factories making heavy machinery, tractors, locomotives, aircraft, and chemicals. Since the 1980s, however, the region's inefficient state-controlled companies have had trouble gearing production to an economy that is increasingly market-oriented.


Manchuria is traditionally the homeland of peoples that have invaded and sometimes ruled N China. Among the most important of these tribes were the Tungus, Eastern Turks, Khitan, and Jurchen. It was the home of the Manchu conquerors of China. The Manchus tried to keep Manchuria an imperial preserve by limiting Chinese immigration. During the 20th cent., however, emigration to Manchuria from the adjacent provinces was heavy, and the population is now predominantly Chinese.


Japan and Russia long struggled for control of this rich, strategically important region. Japan tried to seize the Liao-tung peninsula in 1895, but was forestalled by the Triple Intervention. From 1898 to 1904 Russia was dominant. As a result of a Russo-Chinese alliance against Japan, the Russians built Harbin, the naval base at Port Arthur, and the Chinese Eastern RR. Japan, after victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5), took control of Port Arthur and the southern half of Manchuria (see Liaoning), limiting Russian influence to the north. Chiefly through the South Manchurian RR, Japan developed the region's economy. From 1918 to 1931 the warlords Chang Tso-lin and Chang Hsüeh-liang controlled Chinese military power in Manchuria.

Japan occupied Manchuria in 1931–32, when Chinese military resistance, sapped by civil war, was weak. The seizure of Manchuria was, in effect, an unofficial declaration of war on China. Manchuria was a base for Japanese aggression in N China and a buffer region for Japanese-controlled Korea. In 1932, under the aegis of Japan, Manchuria with Rehe prov. was constituted Manchukuo, a nominally independent state. During World War II the Japanese developed the Dalian, Anshan, Fushun, Shenyang, and Harbin areas into a huge industrial complex of metallurgical, coal, petroleum, and chemical industries. Soviet forces, which occupied Manchuria from July, 1945, to May, 1946, dismantled and removed over half of the Manchurian industrial plant.

At the end of the war the Chinese Communists were strongly established in Manchuria and by 1948 had captured the major cities and inflicted devastating losses on the Nationalist army. From 1949 to 1954 Manchuria, ruled by Gao Gang, was the most staunch of the Communist areas in China. With the help of Soviet technicians the Communists rapidly restored Manchuria's large industrial capacity. After the Sino-Soviet rift in the 1960s there was a massive Soviet military buildup along the border, and several border incidents occurred. With the breakup of the Soviet Union, these incidents have subsided. China's changing economic policies led to renewed investment in the region in 1978, but the ensuing shift to a market economy resulted in unemployment and stagnant growth in the state-controlled businesses.

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Manchuria Region of ne China, now included in the provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning. Manchuria is rich in mineral deposits, and has become one of China's leading sites for heavy industry. It is a major agricultural area, whose chief product is soya beans. Dalian is the principal port. The Manchus conquered China in the 17th century. At the end of the 19th century, the Chinese constructed the railways and the Russians developed the naval facilities at Port Arthur. In the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05), Japan seized control of s Manchuria and Port Arthur. In 1931, Japan occupied the whole of Manchuria and established the puppet state of Manchukuo. The region's industry supplied the Japanese war effort during World War II. In 1945, Soviet forces occupied Manchuria, destroying many factories. In 1948, the Chinese communists defeated the Manchurian nationalists and reconstruction began. From 1960 to 1990, the region was at the forefront of Sino-Soviet hostilities. Area: c.1,500,000sq km (600,000sq mi).

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MANCHURIA , N.E. region of China, adjacent to the Soviet Union. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 many refugees sought shelter in Manchuria, including some 5,000 Jews. Most of them gravitated to *Harbin, but small groups settled in Dairen, Mukden, and other cities. Those Jews who were not employed by the Chinese Eastern Railway worked as educators, physicians, or merchants. The Japanese occupied Manchuria (1931–45); as Axis partners during World War ii they accepted the antisemitic policy of their Nazi ally and their treatment of the Jews was oppressive. After the Japanese defeat in 1945, civil war broke out in Manchuria between the Chinese Nationalists and the Communists. Those Russian Jews who did not succeed in escaping before the Communist takeover eventually returned to the Soviet Union.


H. Dicker, Wanderers and Settlers in the Far East (1962), 17–60.

[Rudolf Loewenthal]