The Japanese Business Community and National Trade Policy, 1920-1942

The Japanese Business Community and National Trade Policy, 1920-1942

The Japanese Business Community and National Trade Policy, 1920-1942

The Japanese Business Community and National Trade Policy, 1920-1942

Synopsis

This book examines the role of the Japanese business community in helping the nation solve an unprecedented combination of economic challenges in the 1920s and 1930s.

Excerpt

The late nineteenth century brought a radical economic transformation to Japan. the regime of the Tokugawa Shogun that had lasted for over two centuries collapsed in the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Until then the nation had had no mechanized industrial production. the new government, dedicated to strengthening the nation, decided that Japan's future depended upon the growth of industry. During the next decade officials brought in and ran foreign factories to show how they operated. This tactic aimed at luring wary Japanese merchants to shift investments from traditional commerce to large-scale manufacturing. in addition, the government helped build an extensive transportation and communication network within Japan and subsidized shipping companies that strived to end the monopoly of Western firms. Once these policies succeeded in prompting a number of new ventures in the private sector, the government shed most of its industrial facilities. By the next decade Japanese textile firms had already begun to penetrate the Chinese market.

The political structure changed too. As the leaders of the restoration assumed power, they dismantled the old regime that had delegated much authority to several hundred lords who each ruled a separate domain. in their place arose a Western-style centralized bureaucracy with national ministries and appointed governors for seventy-two prefectures. in 1889 the emperor proclaimed a constitution. It created a bicameral Diet: the House of Peers and an elected Lower House. These could pass laws and approve the budget. Immediately afterward political parties formed to dominate the Lower House. Japan's industrial and commercial pioneers soon took steps to make sure that officials and politicians heard their views on issues.

Business groups first formed on a regional or sectoral basis to represent the new enterprises. Each organization naturally tried to affect governmental policy toward its members. Later executives felt the need for broad-based national groups to increase the influence of business opinion. Business leaders created two such organizations, the Japan Industrial Club and the Japan Economic Federation. These marked important attempts to strengthen the business . . .

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