Chongqing (1937-1946) / Improvisation: The Move of Heavy Industry to Chongqing during Anti-Japanese War

Chongqing (1937-1946) / Improvisation: The Move of Heavy Industry to Chongqing during Anti-Japanese War

On October 29th, 1937, Chiang Kai-shek gave a speech at the Supreme Meeting of National Defence titled as “The Relocation of National Government to Chongqing and the Future of the Anti-Japanese War”. In this speech, Chiang stated that Chongqing would be the wartime capital of China and the Sichuan Province would become the major rear during the war. At the meantime, the Millitary and Industrial Department of the National Government issued an offical order for all the Heavy Industries under threat to move to the Southwest of China before November 15th. Under the co-ordinance of the government, the Millitary Industries that once located in the central and east China started to move west (Figure 1) and a majority of them ended up settled in Chongqing after the fall of Wuhan and Guangzhou.

Figure 1, The locations of the major millitary industries in China before war

By the time that the heavy plants arrived, there were very few textile and agriculture factories in Chongqing. Basic infrastructures like transportation roads and electricity network necessary for the industrial production were also not well-established. Given the urgency of the emergent relocation, there was not enough time or resources for the government to construct a new industrical area with the supporting infrastructures. The settlement of the factories would have to rely on the existing infrastructure. At that time, the power supply only covers the old city center and its neighborhood within a range of twenty to thirty killometers. The transportation infrastructure was also underdeveloped. Due to the lack of complete road and railway system, the circulation of heavy machines and products depended heavily on the waterways. Given that, it is not hard to understand why all the heavy industries were located on the river banks along the Jialing River and Yangtze River around the old city center (Figure 2). Although the Head of the Millitary and Industrial Department at that time, Yu Kongjian, once stated that the locations of factories were not scattered enough considering the constant air strikes, this arrangement remained unchanged because of the constraints.  However, the thirteen major factories did try to maintain a safe distance among each other to minimize the damage caused by bombing.

Figure 2, The locations of the major millitary factories that were moved into Chongqing

The emergence of the Chongqing multi-centered industrial area along the rivers was not planned. In fact, it was never prepared. It was because of the war that, all of a sudden, Chongqing, a city with very few factories, became one of the most significant industrial cities in China. All the privileged major millitary factories that moved in would have to settle down within a very short amount of time and they must work with the old Chongqing city and its existing infrastructure, which was not planned to deal with such a large number of heavy industries. Under such circumstances, Yu Kongjian would have to improvise and, having considered the existing infrastructure and the defence against bombing, the only solution was to place the factories along the rivers around the old city center, the Bandao area.  In this sense, the emergence of the multi-centered industry zone was the result of a combination of  accidental event and rational improvision.

According to the record of the National Economy Department, the GDP of Chongqing during the war accounted for 32.1% of the national GDP of the entire country. This almost magical industrial development along the river banks exerted a huge influence on the urban planning and structure of the entire city. It set up the basis upon which the urbanization later took place.


  1. Zhang Gong, The History of Chongqing as Capital City of the National Government of China (Chongqing: The Xinan University Press, 1993).
  2. Xie Xuan, Study on the Urban Construction and Planning of Chongqnig (1947-1949), PhD diss, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou, 2011, China Academic Journal Electronic Publishing House.
  3. Zhang Tao, The Issuance and Development of Building Laws in Provisional Capital Chongqing During the War of Resistance Against Japan, Architecture & Culture (2012) Issue 11, pp.67-69
  4. Zhang Yabin and Wang Zhaohui, Military Industry Migration Implementation Process in Chongqing during the Anti-Japanese War, Journal of Chengdu University of Technology: Social Sciences (2014), Vol.22(06), pp.71-76

2 Comments on “Chongqing (1937-1946) / Improvisation: The Move of Heavy Industry to Chongqing during Anti-Japanese War

  1. It is interesting to see how multi-centered industry zones were improvised during the war in Chongqing. Infrastructures such as railways are often useful tools to connect the zones. Yet, the size of land in China was too large that not all provinces were well developed. This led to poor transportation of weapons from provinces to provinces during wars. Managing the production line of exploiting resources, manufacturing and storage became a challenging task to tackle.

  2. I find the fact that Chongqing was a capital of China, even though only during the war with Japan, interesting. Until I read this post, I didn’t know that this city played such a major role in the history of China. I knew that it was a city that wasn’t well-developed and did so rapidly around the time of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam, when many people of the surrounding smaller towns and villages that got flooded by the river moved to Chongqing, where huge river walls and other ”anti-flooding” infrastructure was built. I’m saying that because it is interesting that the city was a very important industrial center for a period of time, but it seems like it didn’t develop much during that period and the river was the main transportation ”infrastructure”, and many factories and other buildings were located on its banks, even though at that time there still was a danger of flooding.

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