The area of Anshan has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The area remained of little significance, a small city in Liaodong province, overshadowed by neighbouring Liaoyang city, until the mid 20th Century. In 1587 Anshan was fortified by the Ming Dynasty to combat the growing power of the Manchu. The city was burnt down during the Boxer Rebellion, and was destroyed again in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). As a result of this war, Japan had gained influence in Liaoning and was engaged in industrialising the region. Anshan lay beside the new South Manchuria Railway line that ran from the port of Dalian to the major city of Shenyang. As a joint Sino-Japanese venture, Anshan Zhenzing Iron Ore Company Unlimited was started in Anshan in 1918. After the Mukden Incident in 1931, Japan occupied the northeast of China. The mills were turned into a Japanese owned monopoly. In 1933, the site was expanded to include steel production and the company was renamed Showa Steel Works. Anshan became part of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. Additional industries developed around the iron and steel mills. The city of Anshan grew significantly in size around this new industrial site.
Anshan had become one of the largest producers of iron and steel in Asia if not the world. It was therefore of strategic importance in the Pacific War, and was subject to constant attack by B-29 Superfortress strategic bombers of the USAAF. Japanese Army detached the 1st Chutai (unit) of 104th Sentai (squadron) of the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force, to Anshan, with other air squadrons for industrial defense purposes. Although this unit was equipped with modern Nakajima Ki-84 Ia (Manshu Type) Hayate "Frank" fighters, manufactured by Manshūkoku Hikōki Seizo KK, the plant suffered heavy damage from the air raids, losing up to 30% of its capacity.
At the end of the war, Soviet Red Army forces launched Operation August Storm, which captured Manchuria form the Japanese. The Soviets looted the ruins of Shōwa Steel Works for anything that could be taken back to the Soviet Union. With the defeat of Japan in 1945, Anshan was returned to China along with the rest of Chinese Manchuria. However, peace had not yet arrived. Civil war continued between the Chinese Nationalist Government and the Communist People's Liberation Army (PLA). The city of Anshan was the scene of one of the battles of this war. The city was liberated by the PLA on February 19, 1948. A monument in Lieshishan park commemorates the battle.
The northeast of China was marked out to become a major industrial centre for the new People's Republic of China. Anshan was set to become a key part of this industrial development. The steel mills had been damaged during the wars. In December 1948, the Anshan Iron and Steel Company - also known as Angang - was founded. Production in the newly repaired steel plant resumed on July 9, 1949. The plant was expanded to become the largest steel producer in China. Other industries setup alongside the steel plant including mining for coal, iron and other minerals. This industrial wealth had an environmental cost. The open-hearth furnaces of the steel mill created large amounts of dust and other pollution. Along with its growing reputation as a major steel producer, Anshan was also gaining a reputation as a dirty, smelly town.
Anshan became a formal administrative region under the Northeastern People's Government (later renamed as the Northeastern Administration Commission) in November, 1949. On March 12, 1953, the city became a municipality under the Central Government direct administration. Haicheng County and Xiuyan County were subordinated to Liaodong Province. Tai'an County was subordinated to Liaoxi Province. August 22, 1954, the central government decided that Anshan should be administered by Liaoning Province. The State Council confirmed that Anshan should be in charge of Xiuyan County and Haicheng city in 1985.
The furnaces of the steel plant were changed in the 1980s to designs which blow oxygen in from the front. This increased the production and also reduced the pollution. In the 1990s, they were additionally altered to blow oxygen in from the top as well. This further increase production and reduced pollution. In December 2000, all three production lines of Anshan Iron and Steel company switched from mould-casting to continuous casting. This new technology has significantly reduced the dust and other pollution in the city. The new plant equipment is also much less labour intensive. This has meant a reduction in the workforce has caused an unemployment problem in the city. A new drive to market Anshan as a tourist destination is hoped to help bolster the cities economy.
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