China Transport and Communications in the 1930’s

By | January 25, 2022

The government has paid particular attention to the country’s communications system, especially the road network which has greatly developed in recent years. It should be noted that, for a country as large as China, good car roads are practically more useful than railways, which are much longer and more expensive to build, if you consider that every kilometer. of railway track costs in China twenty times more than one km. of automobile road. This explains precisely the development of the road network, which while it was only 1185 km. by 1921, it had reached 34,000 km. in 1929 and 109,749 km. in 1936. Among the provinces, the Kwang-tung leads all, with 7038 km. (1932), followed by the Kwei-chow with 3911 km. and from Kan-su with 3452 km.

Merchant marine. – According to petsinclude, the Chinese maritime navigation vessel was made up in the year 1937 of 289 ships for 600,336 gross tons, mostly steamers: 279 for 593,939 tons. gross. The Chinese flag, until 1931, was the third in the traffic of the country; after the anti-Japanese boycott of 1932-33 it moved into second place, after the British one. There is a tendency to shake the predominant position of the foreign flag, especially in cabotage traffic. The first measure in this regard was the reorganization of the “China Merchants Steam Navigation Co.”, the most important Chinese company, under state management in 1934; in 1937 the company established the first national line with foreign countries, from Amoy to Manilla. China’s transoceanic trade is ensured by foreign flags in intense competition; Germany, in 1935 improved its services with the entry on line of the ScharnhorstGneisenau and Potsdam (“Norddeutscher Lloyd”); Italy has a monthly line for passengers with Conte RossoConte Verde and Victoria, and another monthly commercial line leaves Trieste for Shanghai and the Japanese ports.

Civil aviation. – No less progress has been made in recent years by aviation, which has 14 airlines, with 14,000 km. of routes. In a country 35 times larger than Italy, air communications are the only truly rapid means of connection and therefore destined for a secure and flourishing future; their development therefore deserves some particular mention.

The Chinese air navigation companies are (1937): the “China National Aviation Corporation”, and the “Eurasia Aviation Corporation”, both based in Shanghai and operating in the north; the “South-Western Aviation Corporation”, based in Canton, which operates the southern lines.

The Chinese government has 55% of the shares of the first two companies, which are managed as limited companies; the third company has a capital raised from payments made, in equal parts, by the provinces of Kwang-tung, Kwang-si, Yün-nan, Kwei-chow, Hu-nan, and is administered under the control of the government of the Kwang province -tung (Canton). Technically, the companies operate independently of any government control.

The “China National Aviation Corporation” operates the following lines:

  • Shanghai-Ch’eng-tu airline. For traffic purposes, it must be considered divided into the following lines: Shanghai-Nanjing-An-k’ing-KiukiangWu-han (operates on five days of the week with Douglas DC 2 devices); Wu-han-Sha-si-I-ch’ang-Wan-hsien-Ch’ung-k’ing (exercises every four weeks with Douglas DC 2 devices); Ch’ung-k’ing Ch’eng-tu (daily practice with Ford equipment).

Aviolinea celere Shanghai-Ch’eng-tu: inaugurated in October 1935, it is operated twice a week, with Douglas aircraft; the route is completed in just over ten hours. The organization of this express airline required the equipment for the night flights of the terminal airports.

  • Shanghai-Nanking-Tsing-tao-Tien-tsin-Beijing airline (operates three times a week with Douglas DC 2 and Stinson aircraft).
  • Shanghai -Wen-chow- Fuchow – Amoy – Swatow – Canton airline (operates twice a week with Douglas Dolphine aircraft).
  • Airline Ch’ung-king-Kwei-yang-Ko-ming (operates biweekly with Ford aircraft).

The “Eurasia Aviation Corporation”, founded in 1930, operates the following lines:

  • Shanghai-Nanjing – Ho-nan – Si-an-Chuguchak airline (operates twice a week with Junkers 52 aircraft on the Shanghai-Lan-chow section).
  • Beijing-Canton airline (on the entire route for about three months, from May 1934; then traffic was carried out, biweekly, on the Beijing-Chengchow route, with Junkers W 33 and W 34 aircraft).
  • Lan-chow-Ning-shia-Pao-tow-chen airline (biweekly, with Junkers W 33 and W 34 aircraft).
  • Aviolinea Si-an-Ch’eng-tu (biweekly, operates with Junkers W 33 and W 34 aircraft).

The “South-Western Aviation Corporation” operates the following lines:

  • Canton-Wu-chow-Nan-ning-Liu-chow airline (biweekly, with Stinson-Reliant SR and SR 5 aircraft).
  • Canton-Ko-ckow-K’iung-chow-Pak-Koi-Nan-ning airline (biweekly, with Stinson-Reliant SR and SR 5 aircraft).

In the current political-military situation, some of the aforementioned lines have suspended their activity.

The major obstacle to the development of air communications in China is represented by the still exorbitant tariffs, and therefore within the reach of a circle of a privileged few, and by the general lack of confidence in the safety of this very modern means. Moreover, its convenience is indisputable for the transport of mail and goods, but none of the lines in operation are profitable, given the enormous costs of installation and management. Shanghai-Hankow (Wu-han) alone, for example, costs half a million dollars a year, and it is the national government that must ultimately make up the operating budget deficits.

Nonetheless, the government pays particular attention to the development of the air network, above all because this has allowed, for the first time in the history of the country, a certain control by the central authorities over the administration of the peripheral provinces, control that the remoteness, scarcity or difficulties of the ordinary traffic routes previously made it very difficult.

China Transport