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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Woodlands, Warlords, and Wasteful Nations: Transnational Networks and Conservation Science in 1920s China

  • Author(s): Muscolino, Micah S
  • et al.

AbstractThis article investigates the production of conservation science at nodes of transnational networks of encounter through an examination of field studies conducted during the mid-1920s in North China's Shanxi province by the American forester and soil conservation expert Walter C. Lowdermilk with his student, colleague, and collaborator Ren Chengtong. Even in the politically fragmented China of the 1920s, their research on deforestation, streamflow, and erosion benefited from alliances with Shanxi's regional powerholder, Yan Xishan, and produced environmental knowledge that furthered the agenda of harnessing natural resources to strengthen the state. By paying attention to two-way interactions between Chinese and foreign actors in the construction and transmission of knowledge about nature, the article speaks to the global context of the early twentieth-century conservation movement and adds to recent scholarship that recasts China's encounter with modern science as one of active appropriation, translation, and innovation rather than passive reception.

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