The South Manchuria Railway Company: An Accounting and Financial History, 1907-1943


This study examines aspects of the accounting and financial history of the South Manchuria Railway Company (SMR) from its formation in 1907. In particular we focus on the 1930s, a period in which the activities of the SMR became increasingly dominated by the demands of the Kwantung Army which effectively controlled Manchuria. As a special company, the SMR had always faced the dilemma of pursuing the private interest of shareholders as a business enterprise against the backdrop of the requirement to serve the national interest. Following the formation of the State of Manchuria in 1932, the Kwantung Army placed significant and growing financial demands on the SMR while at the same time wishing to alter the juridical personality of the company. Such demands were repelled by the SMR's management for fear that the change in its legal status would cause problems in obtaining the finance necessary to carry out the army's requirements for new lines and improvements to the existing railway network in Manchuria. This problem, and its eventual resolution through the State of Manchuria taking an equity stake in the company in 1940, provides important insights into the impact of military power and wartime conditions on the operation of special companies. In this way, this study contributes to filling a gap in Japanese accounting and financial history research by examining the motives, commitments and (inter)actions of the various parties concerned – the company's management, the Japanese government, the Kwantung Army and the State of Manchuria – and the interaction of such factors with the social, political and economic conditions surrounding the SMR's operations in Manchuria.


The south manchuria railway, Special company, The kwantung army, The state of manchuria, Juridical personality


Masayoshi NOGUCHI
Research Institute for Economics and Business Administration,
Kobe University
Rokkodai-cho, Nada-ku, Kobe
657-8501 Japan
Phone: +81-78-803-7036
FAX: +81-78-803-7059

Trevor BOYNS
Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, UK