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Asymmetrical Integration: Lessons from a Railway Empire
Abstract

abstract:

This article reexamines railway imperialism in Manchuria from the perspective of global network building. Through a case study of the Japanese-owned South Manchuria Railway Company (SMR), I trace how one railway empire used through traffic agreements to integrate Northeast Asian railways into a global network while at the same time installing itself as the necessary intermediary between European and Asian overland traffic. I argue that the SMR’s pursuit of global reach and local dominance compels us to reconsider the traditional division of border-crossing railways into international and imperialist types, and instead to examine how border-crossing railways contributed to the uneven or “asymmetrical” integration of the global transportation infrastructure.