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For many years historians have poured scorn on the Nationalist Government in its final years in power. They see it as a corrupt institution presiding over a country that was falling apart amid Civil War. More recently scholars have started to reappraise the Nationalist Government's activities in light of the challenges of the Japanese invasion and occupation, but much work still needs to be done.
This talk focuses on the 营建司Yingjian si (Construction Department), which was established in 1943 to manage reconstruction in China. It describes the formation of the department, its activities, and the challenges it faced. In doing so I argue that instead of focusing on what the Nationalist Government failed to do, given the problems it faced in 1945 we should instead probably be surprised that it managed to do anything at all. Without the work of the Nationalists in reconstructing China, the Communist Government that replaced it would have found the task of building socialism much harder.
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