In April 1936, the final section of the Canton-Hankow railway was completed, and with it a new age of national rice (guomi) and the end of China's food problem (shiliang wenti or liangshi wenti) was proclaimed. For Guomindang technocrats and engineers, the Canton-Hankow railway represented not only a triumph over space and time—a passage that had previously required ten to twenty days by boat could now be undertaken within thirty-two hours—but also an essential component of their plan to reduce China's dependency upon foreign rice. Statistical surveys undertaken by government bureaus like the Central Bureau of Statistics in Nanjing, its provincial offices, and social scientists in universities and research institutes like Zhongshan University in Canton produced voluminous evidence throughout the 1930s that consumption of foreign rice in China had dramatically increased since the 1920s. Such increases, especially in...

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