BUILDING A SMOKING SOCIETY: CULTURE AND ECOLOGY OF THE TOBACCO INDUSTRY IN NORTH CHINA, 1902-1937
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In 1902, the British-American Tobacco Company (BAT), an American multinational corporation, began its business expansion in China by mass marketing machine-rolled cigarettes to Chinese consumers, thereby systematically establishing a modern tobacco industry centered on cigarette manufacturing. Throughout the early twentieth century, BAT monopolized China’s cigarette market and consequently transformed Chinese tobacco production and consumption towards cigarettes. In particular, from 1912 to 1937, to fulfill its high demand for cheap local-grown raw materials, BAT introduced American bright tobacco into the agriculture of the North China Plain. In doing so it established three tobacco growing bases in Eastern Shandong, Central Henan, and Northern Anhui. This turn led to the formation of a commodity chain of the cigarette in China that reached from the tobacco fields in North China to its cigarette factories in major cities and ultimately to consumers all over China. The establishment of this commodity chain left significant environmental impacts on Chinese agriculture as the tobacco cultivation and peasants’ livelihood in North China were linked to the globalizing industrial economy. At the same time, the Western consumer culture that came with BAT’s mass marketing operations changed millions of Chinese smokers’ consumption habits. This dissertation explores the modern transformation of Chinese tobacco from 1902 to 1937, the period when international forces reshaped China’s tobacco production and consumption by introducing bright tobacco cultivation, cigarette manufacturing, and the Western consumer culture of cigarette smoking. Thematically, this research documents the ecological changes to agriculture in North China and the development of the Chinese cigarette industry. It pays equal attention to the cultural aspects involved, as the clash between the modern consumer culture and traditional Chinese values constructed new meanings for cigarette smoking. By presenting a detailed and comprehensive examination of environmental, economic, and socio-cultural dynamics of Chinese tobacco during the early twentieth century, I conclude that BAT’s efforts in building a modern “smoking society” before 1937 laid down the foundations for the “massification” of the cigarette in China during the second half of the twentieth century.