Rediscovering Cotton Breeding in the Beiyang Era: The Cruciality of Human Capital
This paper aims to revisit cotton breeding projects undertaken by governments, industrialists, and universities between 1914 and 1926. Specifically, it seeks to explain how and why Jinling University and National Southeastern University achieved remarkable success in the early 1920s. Whereas the economic aspect of Republican China’s cotton textile manufacturing has been thoroughly discussed in existing research, little, if any, has been said on cotton breeding—the fundamental solution for agricultural inefficiency paralyzing large-scale cotton textile manufacturing. This paper seeks to fill this vacuum. It finds that, in the Beiyang era, the outcomes of cotton breeding projects depended heavily on human capital. To be more specific, U.S educated cotton experts who acquired advanced agricultural know-how were at the heart of universities’ success; governments’ efforts did not translate into satisfactory direct results, because government-owned experimental farms were not managed by personnel equipped with know-how pertaining to the cultivation of American cotton species; the outcomes obtained at cotton industrialists’ experimental farms were inadequate successes, because the amount of quality human capital available to them was inadequate.
Asian history; Human Capital; Beiyang Regime; Cotton Breeding; Jinxing University; National Southeastern University; Republican China; Science history
Ratcliff, Jessica R.
M.A., Asian Studies
Master of Arts
dissertation or thesis