Why you should visit this website: China was not as completely ‘Oriental’ as most Westerners would often perceive.
In 1930s, China, at that time under the rule of Republic of China (which later relocated to Taiwan in 1949), was one of the world’s most populous countries, and also a fragile, recently emerging industrial powerhouse. Nevertheless, income inequality, social instability, civil war, foreign aggression, chronic corruption, and rampant authoritarianism remained huge challenges in stabilizing this behemoth nation. While major coastal cities, such as Shanghai, Nanjing, and Guangzhou, had prospered with numerous buildings, constructed in European architectural styles, sparkling over the main urban areas, most of the rural areas remained impoverished, and millions were even left starving. Northeast China, at that Manchukuo, became Japan’s puppet state; the government, then led by Chiang Kai-shek, mostly focused solely on their efforts to eradicate Communist elements, overlooking other larger potential dangers that were following ahead. Many major cities remained as foreign colonies, with Hong Kong under British rule, some segments of Shanghai under French administration, much of Tianjin handled by numerous European powers, etc. Life was uneasy, and oftentimes brutal, at the moment, but it was also one of hopes, sweet memories, and unforgotten scenes of romantic simplicity.
This website, in fact, was dedicated to one memoir published by an American graduate working for Texaco, at that time one of United States’ largest oil businesses, back in China. He managed to capture over hundreds of pictures, all worth sharing for us about the situation back then in some of the country’s major cities, many of which defied our perception about how these cities actually appeared.