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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 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]

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