With China being a major player and China steel being a determinant in global steel prices, we take a look at how China steel has progressed through history.
1930-1950: Japanese occupation and liberation of Chinese mills
In 1933, before the Second World War, Japanese forces occupied the north-east of China. In this region, a valuable iron and steel mill in Anshan created a productive community that grew around the steel industry. At 900,000 tonnes of steel, steel production was among the highest in the world.
When Japan was defeated in the war in 1945, Anshan and Banxi, two highly productive steel mills, were returned to China after having been reduced in production capacity by air raids. In 1949, after the continuing civil war, China had 19 steel mills in operation, with seven working blast furnaces. Steel production had decreased across China to only one-sixth of former production quantities.
1950-1966: “The Great Leap Forward”
China’s investment in steel manufacturers was bold, with the ‘Five-Year Plan’ seeing more than $540 million spent on steel infrastructure. This investment brought industry in China great rewards, and by the end of the Five-Year Plan, production was up to 5.3 million tonnes.
“It is not good for us to name ourselves as the most superior in the world,” said Chairman Mao in 1958, “but it is not bad to become the number one steel producer.”
By 1965, “The Great Leap Forward” campaign in China demonstrated China’s desire to overtake the west in terms of steel production. Now, 12.2 million tonnes of steel was being produced, and Chairman Mao was encouraging more. He wanted China to be the metal suppliers of the world.
China’s economy suffered as rewards for steel production were so high that farmers were letting crops rot while they smelted their farm tools. This destroyed China’s economy, and Chairman Mao was sidelined as steel production fell with the economy.
1966-1976: “The cultural revolution”
After crippling famine, the Chinese people rebelled against Mao and all state-led education and industry he represented. In 1966-67, thousands of steel mills were occupied by Maoist youths and closed down.
1977-present: “The great opening up”
In the early 1970s, the State Council began to put steel production back on track. As China industrialised and urbanised, steel demand was so high that they needed to import more than a million tonnes per year from Japan.
China’s global influence in steel has its real roots here, as steel production was privatised and dramatically increased. Now, China is a major player in steel.
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