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After reunifying China in 1927, the Nationalist government proposed a comprehensive planning proposal, the Capital Plan (shoudu jihua), to reconstruct the war-torn city of Nanjing into a modern capital, despite the fact that the infant republic was still threatened by internal strife and external aggression. This article discusses the complex politics involved in the reconstruction of Nanjing from 1927 to 1937, illustrating the way in which the Nationalist state tried to transform China's urban development. It focuses on why unified planning ideas could not be generated during the planning process, and why these ideas did not turn fully into practice during the implementation process. By studying the aborted effort in planning Nanjing, knowing in what particular dimensions the state excelled and in what other dimensions things went wrong, this article analyzes the unevenness of state capacity in Republican China.