Rice and Railways: Hong Kong, Britain, and Chinese post-war reconstruction, 1945-1952

09 Nov 2023 04.30 PM - 06.00 PM Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
Florence Mok

This paper examines the role Hong Kong played in rehabilitating and reconstructing China after the Second World War, whilst also looking at the colony’s position in the British Empire’s post-war reconstruction efforts. Using the case study of the Kowloon-Canton Railway, this paper shows that Hong Kong could only receive much-needed resources from British imperial networks by emphasising its important role in South China, and with it, potential British commercial gains. This paper also investigates the understudied United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration and the Chinese National Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, and how Hong Kong served as a facilitator but not a recipient of this aid. Immediate relief goods in the form of rice, and longer-term rehabilitation materials, most pertinently railway equipment, travelled on the Kowloon-Canton Railway to China. Beyond the 1949 watershed assumed by many, this paper ends by exploring the railway’s role transporting materials to the new People’s Republic after its foundation.


Adonis M. Y. Li is Lecturer in East Asian History at the University of Lincoln, UK. He previously taught at the University of Hong Kong, where he conducted his doctoral research on the history of the Kowloon-Canton Railway in Hong Kong. His broader research interests include transport and mobility history, the history of Chinese migration, and Sino-British relations.