Visualising the Wartime Japanese Empire’s Capital and Power Elites Networks of the Non-Ferrous Metals Industry.

Inspired by Kimberly Kay Hoang’s recent publication Spiderweb Capitalism, this research utilises the non-ferrous metals industry to illustrate structures of capital networks within wartime (1931-1945) Japanese Empire’s dual-use items industries. Non-ferrous metals are essential for producing dual-use items, which are vital to maintain a flexible wartime economy. During wartime, Japan operated numerous mines to manufacture non-ferrous metals, and the production reached its zenith in the twilight of the Empire. Drawing on Japanese, American, British and Chinese military, intelligence, and governmental archives, this research surveys the business operators of the Japanese non-ferrous metals production-related mines at its homeland, colonial Taiwan, Chōsen, Manchuria, coastal China, and its wartime colonies in Southeast Asia, and reconstructs the capital networks of these operators by utilising yearbooks of share companies published by the securities companies. Similar to the contemporary Spiderweb Capitalism, a majority of these mines were controlled by the zaibatsu’s subordinate companies (agents/subordinate spiders), whilst the major stockholders (dominant spiders) like zaibatsu families, aristocrats, imperial household-related bureaucrats and national policy companies (国策 会社) hidden behind the ‘star network’, which were formed through cross ownerships and intermarriages (spider silk). This research uses Gephi, a network analysis and visualisation tool to analyse and present the networks involving more than a thousand individuals and organisations; and to calculate and measure who the central figures are, the intermediaries between the networks, and the influence of each figure. It shows how the wartime Japanese political-military-economic clique used the capital networks to collectively fund and thereby sustain the exploitation of colonial resources and the production of the non-ferrous metals and other dual-use items industries. Through Gephi’s visualisation and computation, this research further explores the personnel and organisations that acted as the capital resources of Japan’s wartime dual-use items industries, opening a window to explore the patterns of how the power elites of the Japanese empire financed their war machine.

Keywords: Non-ferrous metals industry, Dual-use items industries, Japanese Empire’s power elites, Total war, Networks analysis and visualisation

Tsz Ho Wong is currently a PhD student in East Asian Studies at the University of Edinburgh. He earned a BA from the University of Hong Kong and a MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is particularly interested in the history of modern East Asia with focuses on economic history, intellectual history and histories of science and technology from the mid-nineteenth century to the early Cold War. He has great passion in applying digital tools in his research. His works have been published by Routledge (forthcoming in 2023), the Center for Malaysian Chinese Studies and the Webster Review of International History. Currently, he is working on the patterns of the capital and power elites’ networks of the wartime Japanese Empire, and the life of a sinicised Mongolian female writer Liang Yen (梁琰, a.k.a Margaret Yang Briggs, born as Yang Chiao-Chu 楊巧珠). For more information, please visit his personal website (