Scholars' views

Make Good Use of Resource and Geographic Advantages to Build World-Class Enterprises

. The Westernization Movement pioneered the development of modern industry in Tianjin

Tianjin is located at the estuary of the Nine Rivers of the Yellow River and sits along the coast of the Bohai Sea. The city enjoys the advantages of fishing, salt and waterway transportation. Tianjin used to be the provincial capital of Zhili and the place where the Westernization Movement took place in north China. The Tianjin Machinery Bureau was founded in 1866, the Kaiping Mines and the Tianjin Bureau of the Great Qing Post Office were established in 1878 (the latter issued the first set of Large Dragon stamps printed with Panlong patterns and the text Great Qing Post Office). Tianjin set up the first telephone line in 1879, and Li Hongzhang established the Imperial Telegraph Administration in Tianjin in 1880. The Dagu Dock of Beiyang Navy was set up in 1880, and Tianjin's Central Mint was started in 1903. These achievements paved the way for the development of modern industry in Tianjin. Based on the civil industry founded by the Westernization Movement, Tianjin's national industry rose rapidly. According to statistics, from 1895 to 1911, there were 57 industrial enterprises invested by the private sector in Tianjin, forming an industrial structure with textile, food, chemical industry, machinery and mining as the main focus.

. Make good use of local resource advantages to build world-class modern chemical enterprises

Changlu salt field, located on the coast of the Bohai Sea, has been one of the main salt-producing fields in China since the Han Dynasty. Since the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Tianjin has gradually become the production and sales center of Changlu salt area, and the salt industry has become an important pillar industry in Tianjin. As the epitome of China's national industry, the development of modern salt industry in Tianjin has brought Chinese edible salt into the industrial civilization era. 

In 1912, Fan Xudong, who graduated from the Department of Applied Chemistry of the School of Sciences of Japan's Kyoto Imperial University, determined to return to China to run industry to revitalize our nation. He set up Jiuda Refined Salt Company in Tianjin in July, 1914 and was approved by the Salt Affairs Administration to set up a factory in Tanggu, a sea salt-producing area. In September, 1914, he successfully manufactured refined salt with crude salt produced in Tanggu. Since then, Chinese people have been able to eat self-produced refined salt. After Fan's success, the quality of Jiuda's refined salt has been further improved. It has produced diversified types of salt such as granular salt, powder salt and brick salt, which made it a leading company in the domestic market.

Edible alkali and industrial alkali are produced from salt. In order to break the monopoly of Brunner Mond (UK) Ltd., which was a world-leading company with new production method in the alkali industry, Jiuda Refined Salt Company raised 400,000 silver dollars in October, 1917 and founded Yongli Alkali Company, and set up an alkali plant in Tanggu. Yongli chose the most advanced Solvay process to manufacture alkali at that time. Although Solvay was looking forward to cooperating with China to set up a factory, Fan Xudong rejected the opportunity to avoid being subject to the West's technology and pricing power. He embarked on a path of independent innovation driven by technology. It was a bitter road to entrepreneurship. Fan learned from developed countries to set up research institutions (Huanghai Research Institute of Chemical Industry) affiliated to factories with strict technical requirements, and allowed foreign technical experts and local R&D teams to play their respective roles to realize the localization of raw materials, process and equipment through digestion and absorption of research results. After eight years of exploration, in June, 1926, the company successfully produced qualified sodium carbonate that was as good as imported products, and thus became the first Asian enterprise to master the modern alkali production method. Yongli's Red Triangle won gold medals at the Philadelphia's Sesqui-Centennial International Exposition in August, 1926 and at the Intenational Exposition of 1930 in Belgium, respectively. In addition to the production of the three types of alkali (sodium carbonate, caustic soda and pure caustic soda), Yongli also set up an ammonium sulfate plant in 1933, which carried out research and production of the acid needed for the development of industry, agriculture and national defense.

Tianjin's chemical industry was driven by the production of refined salt and alkali. According to statistics, from 1912 to 1928, there were 236 chemical enterprises in 20 categories including alkali production, salt production, matches, leather-making, glassware, soap, bleaching and dyeing, glass, buttons, asbestos, cosmetics, oil production, industrial physics and chemistry, pharmacy, electroplating, candle-making, mirror-making, glass sand, batteries and varnished cloth. The total capital reached 9,021,500 yuan, and more than 2,000 people were engaged in this sector.

. The practices of the chemical industry that featured Yongli, Jiuda and Huanghai Research Institute of Chemical Industry is worth learning

From setting up foreign trade ports in the period of the Opium Wars to the establishment of modern Chinese industry by the Westernization Movement, Tianjin's modern industry grew from scratch in the game with foreign capital. According to statistics, by the end of the 1920s, Tianjin's textile industry ranked third in China after Shanghai and Wuhan. As the carpet production and export center of modern China, Tianjin carpets accounted for more than 90% of the total exported carpets. Tianjin was also one of the six major cities in modern China that produced flour with machines. Tianjin's chemical industry, which was first to be established on the basis of local resource advantages, formed a relatively optimized industrial structure in modern Tianjin together with textile (cotton spinning and wool spinning), knitting, printing and dyeing, food, pharmacy, soap, matches, machine manufacturing, daily necessities and building materials. Facing great changes in today's world and seeking a better future for Tianjin, we should learn from the four creeds of Yong-Jiu-Huang Group (Yongli, Jiuda and Huanghai Research Institute of Chemical Industry), which are believing in science, developing industry, keeping in mind the big picture and serving society. The practical experience of Yong-Jiu-Huang Group in building the modern Chinese chemical industry by leveraging Tianjin's resource and geological advantages also offers valuable lessons.