From Wetland Wilderness to Ecological Model: Reclamations of Chongming Island, Shanghai, from 1950 to 2020

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Yue, Bingru
Wetland drainage , Land reclamation , Mass mobilization , Food supply , Chongming Island
This dissertation investigates the transformation of social and ecological relations on Chongming Island, Shanghai from the 1950s to the 2010s. Chongming Island experienced dramatic anthropogenic environmental changes during the period, including the draining of wetlands on a large scale and a later ecological conservation program, along with the reorganization of communities on the island. Chinese Communist Party-led governments at different levels implemented policies inspired by socialism that resulted in systematic change. Irresistible state-driven campaigns reconstructed and simplified both nature and society as working tools to be managed and deployed. Wetlands were drained and transformed into state farms, completed through the mobilization of Chongming farmers, Shanghai citizens, and material resources gathered from the island’s villages. Appropriations of resources to achieve the goals prioritized by officials intensified pressures on the material world, including human resources. Tensions and resistance arose, especially when physical limits were intentionally disregarded while the interests of affected groups were discounted. Through an analytical approach to nature and humanity as a complete material world, this case study illustrates how unsustainable appropriations of natural resources and abusive demands on human productive capacities tend to occur in close association. As a contribution to Chinese history, it examines these associated impacts the “mass mobilization” that was a key principle and policy of the Mao era.
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