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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 22, No. 2. March 23, 1959

Inside China Today — New Patterns of Industry

page 4

Inside China Today

New Patterns of Industry

The city of Langchow lies deep in the heart of China, almost one thousand miles west-south-west of Peking. It is an old oasis city, lying on the Silk Road, the caravan route which ran between the mountains and the deserts of central Asia and which for long was a major trade artery between East and West.

The yellow mud houses of the old town lie partly on a bluff above the Hwang Ho; around the town, along the valley floor, are irrigated plots of vegetables and peppers and the orchards and melon patches which gave Lanchow its reputation—"the city of fruits and melons."

Within the last nine years this medieval city has been plunged abruptly into the mechanised world of the twentieth century. Tall multi-storied blocks of factories and offices and flats rise above the roofs of the old town; factory chimneys stand up starkly against a background of sunscorched pink and ochre hills; in the heart of the city mule carts and Czech Skoda buses packed with workers raise swirling clouds of yellow dust from the still unsurfaced streets.

Everywhere, crowds of labourers put in essential services, swarm over the new construction sites, work to the sound of Central Asian folk music from loud-speakers slung from the telegraph poles, great variety of peoples; apple-cheeked folk of Kansu and tall mahogany-skinned caravan drivers from Sinkiang, Huis and Tibetans, Chinese from Peking and a sprinkling of unobtrusive Russian technicians.

Beyond, to the west, the Lan-Sin railroad is being pushed forward, to provide a new link between China and the U.S.S.R., and at Karamai large scale exploitation of the vast oil resources of China's northwest is gathering momentum.

Population Doubled

Lanchow doubled its population between 1953 and 1958 and will soon be a city of a million people. Its industries today include the processing of local agricultural raw materials, the manufacture of chemicals, machine tools and machinery, and the largest oil refinery in China.

Its development epitomises the recent industrial development of China as a whole—the almost feverish speed, the wide range of industries, the utilisation of formerly neglected or unsuspected resources, the swing of industry to the interior. And the splendid new buildings of the Academy of Sciences or of the Northwestern University serve to emphasise that this development is creating an unprecedented demand for technologists and that industrial advance is being matched by equally rapid and impressive advances in the fields of higher education and research.

Lanchow's former lack of industry was typical of interior China as a whole. As late as 1953 three-quarters of China's industry was concentrated in the coastal margins; elsewhere, there was little to relieve the drab and monotonous poverty of a stagnating rural economy. The description of old China as "a beggar's mantle fringed with gold" aptly characterises the situation.

Unused Resources

The lack of development was not due to lack of resources. China has a wide range of metallic minerals, including some of the biggest iron ore deposits in the world. She possesses immensely rich coal [unclear: basns]. Her coal reserves were conservatively estimated at nearly 450,000 million tons in 1949, since when prospecting has revealed additional major resources.

The basins of Chinese Central Asia contain important oil deposits; even before the development of the Karamai field her proved reserves of oil were larger than those of Iran. Her great rivers have a hydroelectric potential of more than 300 million kilowatts, larger than that of the U.S.A. Her agriculture provides a wide range of raw materials, including cotton, of which she is the world's largest producer. She has vast labour resources and her peasant masses, released from the shackling fetters of low productivity, could provide an equally vast market.

This is the second of a series of articles by Professor K. M. Buchanan (professor of geography) on his recent visit to China and North Vietnam.