SCATTERED around the world are certain territories, some large, some small, that have been deeply significant in the world's history and have profoundly influenced the lives of its people. A happy combination of circumstances has in each case brought the right people at the right time to the right place to develop its natural resources and to exploit its geographic advantages. From the center of power thus created have spread waves of influence to affect the whole surrounding area and in some instances the entire world. The Nile Valley was in its time one such area, Greece was another, and Rome a third. In modern times, England has been such a center. Many and varied have been the forces responsible for the rise to power and significance of the various areas. Each, however, has been inhabited by a vigorous people, each has been situated favorably to enjoy wide contacts and each has been endowed with natural resources of the type esteemed at the time to be of supreme value to the world. In some instances, the people themselves seem to have been the most important factor, as in the case of the Greeks. In others, it was the resources, as in the Nile where a rich soil and an adequate water supply permitted the production of a large surplus food supply. In still others it was the geographic position of the country that permitted the inhabitants to act as middle men in world trade, as did Venice in the Middle Ages, and earlier, King Solomon who promoted trade and took a profit from his position on the isthmus between the mutually antagonistic Arabs, who on the one hand ranged both sea and land to the Far East, and the Mediterranean people whose small ships sailed to the west and north even to the Baltic. Solomon was a wise man, not because he collected a thousand wives and built a famous temple, but because he recognized and exploited the advantages of his geographic position.

A time factor also enters into the result. The Chilians were fortunate to have exploited their great nitrate deposits before the synthetic product claimed the market. The pitchblende of Bohemia led to no important results when discovered; but that of northern Canada and the great uranium deposits of Katanga are now of immense interest to the world.

Time, place, people and resources all have a part in determining the significance of each country; and within each there are smaller key areas which have been of major importance. Pennsylvania in the United States, the Midlands in England, the Ruhr in Germany, the Donetz basin in Russia, New South Wales in Australia, Buenos Aires province in Argentina, stand out. In China -- indeed in east Asia -- Manchuria seems destined to play such a part.

Centuries ago the great central plain which constitutes the core of Manchuria was the breeding place of vast herds of hardy horses and the training ground of a fierce and tactically wise tribe of nomad warriors who in 1644 swept out and conquered the rich and highly civilized China of the Mings. The Manchus, in this effort, used to the full one of the resources of their country, its grass land, but they showed no appreciation of its other resources, even stopping the beginnings of coal mining and pottery making which the Koreans had tried to introduce. Their great effort of conquest seems to have exhausted their vigor and in China they became rich, corrupt and contented while their homeland relapsed into another long sleep. From this it was eventually poked into life again, first by the Russians, then the Japanese; and now new currents of life are reaching it from China and the west. When Manchuria awakened, it was into a new world. No longer were horsemen dominant. The superior advantages of mechanical power had already become appreciated and steam and hydro power had taken the place of horses and coolies. The twentieth century brought into Manchuria a new type of adventurer who searched out and brought into use resources and opportunities which had been passed over by the Manchus and which in fact would have meant nothing to them even if they had been recognized.

From the north came the Russians, seeking a modern route to a warm water port as outlet for their great and awakening empire. From the east came the Japanese, seeking room for expansion and raw materials for modern industry. The country was but sparsely inhabited, since the Manchus had preserved it for an imperial hunting ground and had fenced out their industrious and land-hungry Chinese subjects. The revolution of 1911 changed all this, and in the years since there has been a large movement of people into the area. The greater number have come from China, but Japan, Korea, Siberia and other countries have all contributed. At present, the population is estimated at 43,000,000.

The power, however, of a modern nation is measured neither by area nor by population, but by work output, and the latter is determined mainly by the fuel available and the extent and manner in which it is put to work. Each metric ton of coal properly burned affords applicable energy equal to 1,100 mandays labor, or nearly as much work as three and one-half men can do in a year. This additional work output can be realized without materially trenching on either the housing facilities or food supply of a country, and the output can, therefore, be easily transmuted into social benefits and higher standards of living. Realization of this fundamental factor in modern industrial economy, and doing something about it, is what has given power to England, the United States and Germany, and what is now raising Russia to front rank, and what is increasing the stature and position of other countries such as Canada, Australia and Czechoslovakia. It is in this potential for industrialization, rather than in their large population, that lies the hope of India and of China, of which latter Manchuria is a part.

Geographically, Manchuria is well positioned to play a leading part in the affairs of east Asia. It lies in the temperate zone where the climate favors plant and animal life and the recurrent change of seasons acts as a powerful stimulant to human activities. It is a natural meeting place of people. With the Chinese to the southwest, the Mongols to the west, Russians to the north, Koreans (and beyond them the Japanese) to the east, and with open ports to the south through which contacts may be easily maintained with the other peoples of the world, Manchuria is truly ordained to be one of the world's great crossroads. Up to now, this middle position has resulted in conflict rather than trade, so much so that Manchuria has come to be known as "Land of Conflict" rather than a center of peace and industry. Fortunately such a designation is not necessarily permanently to be deserved. Time was when our own Kentucky was known as "the dark and bloody land."

Our hurt and exasperation with the Japanese over the recent war not unnaturally disposes us to emphasize their undesirable characteristics and too often to forget the good that is in them. Among the powerful influences which built up the military party and in the end brought Japan to disaster was the so-called young officer group. It was most unfortunate that the movement which began in this group was early captured by the older followers of the military tradition--Araki, Doihara, Homma, Tanaka, Minami, Tojo, and the leaders of the Kwantung Army who came to dominate the Empire. The young officers began as reformers and with worthy ideals. They were farm boys, for the most part conscripted into the Army and receiving their education and training from it. In the Japanese Army, the Inspector General had charge of all training and instruction, and he was one of the three who dominated its policy at any time. The young officers, as they progressed upward in army ranks, carried with them vivid memories of the hardships endured by the common people from whom they came and especially of the farming classes. As for the first time they saw the wealth and luxury of life enjoyed by the few in the big cities they were filled with a deep resentment and developed a fierce zeal to bring about a better life for the underdog. While General Watanabe was Inspector General, there was some opportunity for growth and expression of such ideas, but after his assassination and Araki's succession to power such ideas were repressed. Force was deified and only the road to conquest was permitted to remain open.

There is (or was )at Hsinking an interesting expression of these early ideals of the young officers in an attractive painting placed at the turn of the stairs in the capitol building. This picture showed five little maidens, hand in hand, skipping joyfully down a broad path symbolizing opportunity. Each was dressed in a traditional national costume, one Manchu, one Mongolian, one Chinese, one Korean and one Japanese, all living happily together. It was for this ideal that many of the young men of Japan gave their lives. The wish to change Manchuria from a land of conflict into a land of peace and plenty was implicit in much that was done. The young men were not always happy in their manner of attempting this and they were all too often used rather than helped by older and more worldly-wise leaders; but their own good purpose deserves remembrance and their ideal is well worth working toward now and in the years to come.

Manchuria is a large country. With an area of 503,013 square miles, it is slightly smaller than Alaska but almost twice as big as Texas. Even Texans will admit that it is a considerable territory. More than its mere extent, too, gives it importance. Its heart is a great northeast-trending prairie plain, roughly 600 miles long and 200 to 400 miles wide, with a fertile soil and a climate favorable to grain-growing. Indeed, it is potentially another Manitoba-Dakota wheat area. Owing to the restrictions long imposed by the Manchus, its soil has not been exhausted, as it has been used only for grazing land through centuries. Even when the revolution opened it to settlement, the tough sod was too much for the man with a hoe and had to await the coming of tractors. It has not, therefore, been broken up into small fields and is still open in the main to modern methods of machine cultivation. Under the stimulus of changed conditions, and in particular the provision of increased railway and road mileage, it has already become a big producer and exporter of surplus foods, especially of soybeans. It was the soybean which first brought the Russians and Japanese into railway traffic agreements after their bitter war, and it was the same bean and its products which enabled the Japanese to buy from Germany the mining and other machinery brought in to exploit Manchuria's mineral resources. Incidentally, the residue of the bean, after its oil had been expressed, supplied much-needed fertilizer to Japan and was important among Manchurian exports. Potentially, this central plain is one of the great graneries of the world and much can be done to improve the agriculture by introducing new crops, by better seed selection, by pest control and other well-known modern methods. In Manchuria, as in China, entirely too much heartbreaking human labor has been expended to produce inferior results in quality and quantity of product. Here, however, because of the better opportunity for a fresh start with a relatively clean slate, a greater chance of quick progress exists than in the older parts of China.

This central plain narrows to the south where it reaches the Yellow Sea and again to the north where the bordering mountains close in around it. It is drained to the south by the Liao River and to the north by the Sungari, which breaks through to the Amur and so to the sea. Each of these rivers has numerous tributaries, of which the Nonni, flowing into the Sungari, is perhaps longest. Manchuria itself is largely bounded by rivers. The Yalu on the southeast separates it from Korea, and the Ussuri, Amur and Argun encircle it on the northeast, north and northwest and mark most of the boundary between it and Siberia. Between these rivers and the central plain is everywhere a mountain belt. To the northwest is the escarpment of the Mongolian plateau which rises in the Great Kingan range to a crest of some 6,000-foot altitude and which extends northward into the great bow of the Amur River. To the northeast is the Little Kingan range, and along the southeast the Changpai Mountains which are but the western extension of the Korean massif cut in two by the Yalu River. On the west and southwest, the Mongolian plateau slopes down to the gulf with a narrow gap between mountains and sea through which Manchuria is connected with northern China. Agriculture, commerce and manufacturing are centered on the plain, especially in the south. The mountain areas are given up to mining and forestry, the timber lands being among the more important in northeastern Asia and the proximate cause of the original war between Russia and Japan.

The important mineral resources of Manchuria are coal, iron, dolomite and magnesite, aluminous shale, oil shale, structural and chemical raw materials, gold and subordinate amounts of silver, copper, lead, zinc, tungsten and less important metals. Coal and iron, the two minerals most fundamental to modern industry, have long been known to be present in quantity but the exact knowledge regarding individual deposits was generally lacking, and most of the iron ore has been believed to be of such low grade as to render it unavailable for use in modern plants. While the Japanese were in control of the country, they made extensive geological surveys, and by bold exploration and notable improvements in the technology materially improved the outlook. It is now clear that in Manchuria are to be found in quantity the principal minerals essential to a sound development of heavy industry which, as is well known, lies at the base of a modern economy.

The older rocks outcrop in the southern part of the country and the younger formations successively overlap them to the north. Important outliers of these younger formations are found even down to the Kwantung Peninsula and because of the severe and long periods of erosion which the country has endured the younger formations have been cut through in central and northern Manchuria and the older ones exposed at many points. Ores of iron and other metals especially characterize the older rocks and are accordingly most abundant in southern Manchuria. Gold deposits, in contrast, were formed at various periods in geological history. The most important deposits are those of the north, where they are genetically related to relatively young intrusive rocks and were concentrated into placers in Tertiary and Pleistocene times.

Coal is found from north to south and in formations of Permocarboniferous, the Jurassic and the Eocene Ages. The largest fields are in the Jurassic, which is extensively developed in Central Manchuria; but the Permocarboniferous fields while less extensive are especially important since they include most of the high grade coal and in particular that which has strong coking properties. The Tertiary (Eocene) coals are, as generally throughout the world, of lower grade but the fields are characterized by unusually thick beds which makes for low cost of mining.

The largest and best known deposit is at Fushun, near Mukden, where a block of Eocene strata about ten miles long and two and a quarter miles wide has been faulted down below the surface of the older rocks and so preserved through succeeding long periods of erosion. Mining was begun here six or seven centuries ago but was stopped when the Manchus gained control. It was only resumed when the Russians came in the late nineties. They opened big mines there and the Japanese in turn developed them still further. Coal is now mined from two open pits and five shaft mines. The Kunchengzu pit is equipped to produce 15,000 tons per day alone but, owing to the severe winters, cannot be operated more than two-thirds of the year. The daily capacity of the underground mines varies from 3,000 tons at the older Oyama to 5,000 tons at the Lung Feng, the newest and most modern. Roughly, one-third of the annual output, which since 1938 has been above 10,000,000 tons, comes from the open pits and two-thirds from underground. When the recent war began, the mines were fully equipped in the most modern manner, and around them had clustered a number of varied plants making Fushun the largest industrial center in Manchuria. The main coal bed is notably thick, ranging from 130 feet at the east end where the quality is highest to 430 feet at the west. While there are numerous partings of shale and clay, W. H. Emmons, who made detailed measurements in 1921, determined that 73 percent of the 430 feet of thickness was coal. In the open pit, mining is done with steam shovels, six benches being operated. Above these, there are five working in oil shale and three for stripping off the barren green shale and surface sands. The stripping ratio is unusually low. While mining costs have not been released, they obviously are low also. Indeed, at one time coal was supplied free for a term of years as a means of inducing industries to locate near the mines. A large power house with a capacity of 250,000 kw. was built and current supplied to Mukden, Anshan and further south. Costs were reported to have been 55 sen per kw.h, equal at the then prevailing exchange to about 15 cents.

The coal is excellent for steaming purposes, about equal to that from good midwestern mines in the United States. It is only feebly coking, but it serves well in mixtures for by-product ovens all the more because of its high nitrogen content. At Anshan, it supplied 70 to 75 percent of the coke oven burden. Japanese engineers estimate that the original content of the Fushun field was approximately one billion tons and that not less than 90 percent remains to be mined.

A number of smaller coal mines have been opened in different parts of Manchuria by Chinese, Russian and Japanese companies. However, the most ambitious attempt yet made to rival Fushun was that of the Manchurian Coal Company, a subsidiary of the Manchuria Industrial Development Company at Fushin, not far from the border of Jehol and about 75 miles north of Chinchow (Chinhsien) on the Peking-Mukden Railway. In 1936, a railway line was built north from Chinchow to the coal field and on around to connect into Mukden. Work was promptly started to open the field and 1,850,000 tons were mined in 1938. Plans called for a production of 5,000,000 tons in 1941 and apparently this was accomplished. The coal is found in a belt of Jurassic strata let down into the older Taishan complex and so preserved from erosion as at Fushun. It is approximately 40 miles long and 9 to 12 miles wide. Systematic drilling was carried out over a considerable portion believed to be representative, and an ultimate recovery of a billion tons was estimated. The possible tonnage for the whole field was put at four times that amount.

The coal measures are 1,800 to 2,000 feet thick and in them are several coal beds as much as 90 feet thick. In one group, there is a total thickness aggregating 300 feet of coal in 400 feet of strata. A large part of the coal can be won by open pit mining with a stripping ratio of three and a half to one by volume. Dips are moderate and underground mining is easy and cheap. The coal is clean, bright and free burning but not itself generally coking. Individual beds show some coking power and in practice Fushin coal can be made into coke by using the proper proportion of coal from Penshihu or Pei Pao, which latter field is nearby. The Pei Pao field, which was opened by the Chinese, is not so large as the Fushin, the probable reserve being estimated at only 250,000,000 tons; but it is believed that fully half this amount is of coking grade. It is slightly nearer the port of Hulutao with which it is connected by rail, and coal can be delivered very cheaply to the sea.

Numerous other coal mines have been opened in Manchuria and are now producing at rates of 100,000 to 2,000,000 tons per year. Each of them is backed by a suitable reserve. Only a few can be mentioned here. One of the most important is at Penshihu, on the railway line between Mukden and Antung; this is characterized by the high coking quality of the coal. Substantially all the coke made in Manchuria, which was but little less than one-third of the total available to the Japanese, was made in whole or in part from Penshihu coal. In the same Permocarboniferous coal district is the Yentai field, opened by the Russians and yielding about 500,000 tons per year of anthracitic coal, mainly for locomotive fuel. In central Manchuria there are a number of mines, including the Hsian, east of Ssupingkai, now putting out 2,000,000 tons per year, the Shulan, the Hueshihling, and others.

In northern Manchuria, the Russians opened the Muling field on the east and Chalinor on the west to supply fuel to the Chinese Eastern Railway. The Chinese, through the National Geological Survey, called attention to the Holikwan field which, because of its extent and the high coking quality of its product, may prove to be one of the more important in Manchuria. It lies north of the Chinese Eastern Railway on the Sungari River. The Japanese opened it and connected the mines by direct railway line with the port of Rashin. They also opened what is practically a new field, the Mishan, near the Muling in eastern Manchuria, and extended the surveys and studies in the Chalinor in the far west. This latter field is large but its development imposes particular problems, since the coal is of lower quality than that found in the other areas discussed, resembling our North Dakota black lignite rather than standard bituminous. The Japanese experimented here with low temperature distillation, producing a char as a by-product. Owing to the eastern methods of house heating, char can be marketed there more easily than in Dakota; but Chalinor is in a very thinly populated area and a long distance from any considerable present market.

It remains to be mentioned that in eastern Manchuria there are numerous imperfectly explored coal fields both in Jurassic and Permocarboniferous strata and of both coking and non-coking bituminous coal. These acquire a new importance because of discovery of the Tungpienta iron ore deposits along the Yalu. It appears reasonably probable that these fields are capable of affording sufficient fuel for working up these ores. Scattered throughout northern Manchuria, too, are areas of coal and lignite sufficient to supply the railways and fleets of gold dredges such as the Japanese were putting into the region.

Wide differences of opinion have existed as to the total probable coal reserve in Manchuria. Shortly before the Japanese overran the country, Hsieh, of the National Geological Survey of China, estimated the total at nearly three billion tons. The Lytton Commission considered the matter and raised the figure to just under four billion. Now, in the light of the extensive explorations and developments conducted by the Japanese, it seems safe to set the figure at nine billion. This places the Manchurian reserve above that of Japan proper and but little below that of Belgium. Manchurian coal beds are thicker, less broken and nearer the surface than in either of these countries, so the cost of mining should be less and the production potential correspondingly greater. While the Manchurian coal fields are by no means the largest in China, they rank high; and when account is taken of their accessibility and the character of the coal, they are without much doubt of the largest present importance and of great significance for the future. In wartime the production was built up to some 30,000,000 tons per year, more than the prewar output of all the rest of China together. A most significant fact, too, is that only a small portion of this coal, estimated at 1,300,000 tons, was exported, the great bulk being used within the country itself to support local industry. The considerable existing network of railways minimizes the problem of distribution which has so severely handicapped coal development elsewhere in China.

The second most important mineral in Manchuria is iron. Local iron ores are already responsible for the building up of two centers of iron production, one at Anshan and another at Penshihu, with a combined prewar pig iron output of about 1,500,000 tons and a steel ingot production of 500,000 to 600,000 tons. Both increased materially during the war years and the pig iron capacity has been estimated to have become as much as 3,000,000 tons, with a potential steel output, including that of small electric plants, of one-half that much. It is not believed that full capacity was realized. Again the most significant fact is that much of the larger part of the iron and steel was worked up locally. Manchuria has already ceased to be merely a producer of raw materials.

The iron ores occur in a range or series of low hills which extend across the southern part of the country from Lanchow in China to Mosan in Korea. The rocks are pre-Cambrian and similar to those in the older iron ore ranges of the Lake Superior country, but there has not been in Manchuria much of the enrichment of the iron ore formation which created the bonanza ore-bodies from which American furnaces have drawn the bulk of their supply. Tegengren, of the China Survey, credited this belt with a potential yield of three-quarters of a billion tons of ore. Unfortunately, the ore is mainly of low grade, being high in silica and containing but 30 to 40 percent of iron. Such material cannot be economically sent to the blast furnace direct and is not generally considered an ore. Relatively small deposits of richer ore have been found in bodies ranging in size from 5,000,000 to 25,000,000 tons. It was upon these that the iron industry of Manchuria was founded.

The Japanese have materially improved the situation, both by discovery of more direct furnace ore, and by the working out of the Showa process of beneficiation by which much of the iron in the low grade ores is made available for blast furnace use in the form of sinter. They have also adapted to local use the Krupp-Renn process and so found a way to use the 25 percent not amenable to the Showa process. The result is that a unit of iron in the form of sinter can be delivered to Manchurian furnaces at a cost considerably lower than the same amount can be supplied from Lake Superior to most American blast furnaces. In view of the increased vogue for sinter everywhere, this is a matter of large importance.

No adequate technical data are as yet available to permit us to estimate the effect of the additional overall recovery due to use of the Krupp-Renn furnaces. These various technical improvements, however, have changed the whole picture and assure a large supply of usable ore to Manchurian furnaces regardless of whether the discovery of bodies of natural ore of furnace grade continues.

The Japanese were fortunate, furthermore, in bringing to light not only additional bodies of rich ore in the original mining district, such as the Kungchangling, with an estimated reserve of 24,000,000 tons of high grade, but also ore in the Tungpienta region along the Yalu, a wholly new district in which hard red hematite ore of 63 percent iron content and low in silica, phosphorous and sulphur, is present in quantity. This ore is particularly desirable in Manchuria since the coke there available, like the ore previously employed, contains undesirable quantities of silica. The new ores and the new processes place Manchuria in a strong competitive position among world iron and steel producing centers. The abundant raw materials, if backed up with modern plant and effective administration, should permit production of both iron and steel at satisfactory prices. The situation of the country and its transportation facilities favor effective distribution as well as importation of any needed raw materials, such as manganese and chrome ores. Refractory materials are at hand not only in the form of widely distributed limestone and dolomite, but in the magnesite deposits of the Kwantung peninsula which are among the largest in the world and are of high grade. Excellent fire clays are also abundant.

Cement materials and most of the other valuable non-metallics are widely present. No sulphur has been found, but it can be easily imported from Japan which has a considerable surplus. Pyrites and sulphides of the common nonferrous metals, copper, lead and zinc have been found but are little mined. It is still open to question whether large deposits are present. Materials for the manufacture of light metals are present, though in the present state of technological development the aluminous shales could probably not stand the competition of imported bauxite. This same condition will probably be found to obtain as to derivation of petroleum from the oil shale or through synthetic processes from coal. Solar salt production is a growing industry on the Kwantung peninsula; and the Manchurian Chemical Company in the same neighborhood is a well-based, growing industry.

In résumé, it may be stated that Manchuria certainly has the makings of an iron and steel industry of more than local importance and will be able to fabricate the steel into a wide variety of manufactured products. It is in better position than any other district in east Asia; and it may well give stiff competition to the surviving Japanese and Korean furnaces and to any new plants that may be erected in China or eastern Siberia. The raw materials are available, the technology has been worked out. It is the problem of management that remains to challenge the Chinese who are now succeeding to control.

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  • H. FOSTER BAIN, before the war Adviser on Mines to the Philippine Government; formerly Secretary of the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers; author of "Ores and Industry in the Far East" and other works
  • More By H. Foster Bain