China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
The signing of the Lend-Lease Act into law in March 1941 by President Franklin Roosevelt allowed the government of the beleaguered Republic of China to import vast amounts of weapons, industrial products, and commodity goods. The challenge, however, was in delivering these desperately needed products into wartime China. By 1942, the Republic of China was almost completely cut off from international shipping routes by advancing Japanese armies. Unable to import desperately needed goods along conventional transport routes, Chinese leaders and their allies were forced to get creative. My paper focuses on the multi-national effort to establish a new overland transport network that could bind China to the British Empire and by extension global markets via a pack road across Tibet and the foothills of the Himalayas, or else via Xinjiang and the Central Asian steppe. This effort was undertaken by Nationalist diplomats in negotiation with their British, American, and Soviet counterparts as well as by Chinese and British surveyors and engineers operating on the ground. Drawing on a series of largely unused archival sources drawn from the US National Archives in Washington DC, the British Library in London, and the Academia Historica Archive in Taipei, this work shines new light on the development of an infrastructural network that would facilitate national integration in China’s western periphery.