Papers presented by Tsz Ho Wong since 2019

2023 Detroit, MI, United States

"The Capital Networks of the Wartime Japanese Empire’s Non-Ferrous Metal Industry "

Tsz Ho Wong, University of Edinburgh


Non-ferrous metals, including lead, zinc, copper, aluminium and magnesium, are essential for producing dual-use items, which were vital to maintain a flexible wartime economy. During wartime (1931-1945), Japan operated numerous mines to manufacture non-ferrous metals, and the production reached its zenith in the twilight of the Empire, for instance, lead yields consecutively increased from 25,832 tonnes in 1942 to 32,031 tonnes in 1943 and 33,670 tonnes in 1944. Yet, how did these mines operate, and more importantly, how was the operation shaped by and cooperated with the war economy and mobilisation? This research uses Japanese, American and British military, intelligence and governmental archives to survey the business operators of the Japanese non-ferrous metals production-related mines at its homeland, its occupied Taiwan, Chōsen, Manchuria, coastal China and its wartime colonies in Southeast Asia during the early 1940s, and reconstructs the capital networks of these operators by utilising yearbooks of share companies published by the securities companies at that time. This research suggests that a majority of mines were controlled by zaibatsu and its subordinate companies, whilst the major stockholders were other zaibatsu, aristocracies, imperial household-related bureaucrats and national policy companies (国策会社), and they together formed and consolidated a ‘star network’ (the centre and the periphery parts of the network, and the networks in these two parts, were well-connected) through cross ownerships and intermarriages. Intriguingly, the zaibatsu who operated or invested in non-ferrous metals industry, its subordinate companies and affiliated laboratories were also engaged in researching, developing and producing dual-use items, which was funded by other zaibatsu, aristocracies, imperial household-related bureaucrats and national policy companies. Therefore, this research utilises the non-ferrous metals industry as an example, illustrating the patterns of the capital networks of the wartime Japanese Empire’s dual-use items industries.