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Reviewed by:
  • Unfinished Business: Ayukawa Yoshisuke and U.S.-Japan Relations, 1937–1953
  • Steven J. Ericson (bio)
Unfinished Business: Ayukawa Yoshisuke and U.S.-Japan Relations, 1937–1953. By Haruo Iguchi. Harvard University Asia Center, Cambridge, Mass., 2003. viii, 362 pages. $40.00.

In this carefully researched book, Haruo Iguchi meticulously chronicles one failure after another by Ayukawa Yoshisuke, founder of the Nissan combine and the semipublic Manchuria Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), to attract American investment in Japan and Manchukuo in the years immediately before the Pacific War and in Japan shortly after the conflict. Portions of the story are not new: Udagawa Masaru, for example, has written about Nissan's abortive negotiations over joint ventures with Ford and General Motors in the 1930s as well as Ayukawa's futile attempts to introduce American capital into Manchuria and avoid war with the United States, and Chō Yukio has examined broader Japanese efforts to entice American investment in Manchuria.1 Iguchi, however, provides new details on the interactions of Ayukawa and his contemporaries with an array of American bankers and industrialists, drawing on previously unavailable documents in Ayukawa's personal papers. He complements his use of that collection with extensive research in the private papers of American government officials, businessmen, and journalists alike.

Furthermore, whereas Chō has argued that the plan to lure American capital to Manchuria and thereby foster cooperation with the United States was "no more than a dream," 2 Iguchi maintains that a number of Ayukawa's initiatives in both the business and diplomatic arenas came close to fruition. [End Page 436] In doing so, he appears to challenge the notion of the inevitability of conflict between Japan and the United States in the years leading up to Pearl Harbor. In the author's view, between 1937 and 1940 Ayukawa had "several good opportunities" (p. 8) to introduce American capital through joint ventures mainly because of the slow U.S. recovery from the Great Depression. Similarly, Iguchi contends, the private diplomacy Ayukawa pursued in 1939–40 with the goal of securing America's economic help and its tacit recognition of Manchukuo "had a limited but surprising opportunity for success" (p. 8). Continuing with this theme, the author considers Ayukawa's plan to attract large-scale American investment after the war to have been within the realm of possibility in light of America's growing interest in promoting Japan's economic recovery and its "appetite for . . . business opportunities" (p. 9).

As Iguchi points out, however, Ayukawa confronted a multitude of problems that ultimately spelled failure for virtually every one of his plans during the years under study. In the pre-1941 period, the main obstacle he faced was the escalation of the Sino-Japanese War, which led his home government to intensify economic controls and to subordinate Manchukuo's industrialization to domestic Japanese needs while it also stiffened the opposition of the U.S. State Department to American business involvement in the Japanese empire. Iguchi ventures: "Had politics not intervened to the extent that it did in U.S.-Japan relations, Ayukawa probably could have enticed American investment on a large scale and enhanced trade between the United States and Manchukuo" (p. 72). He bases this supposition on the fact that major American corporations and banks were expressing interest in closer economic ties with Japan and Manchukuo in the late 1930s, an interest that waned only with the outbreak of war in Europe and the attendant economic rebound in the United States. Despite the chances for success in Ayukawa's negotiations with various American businessmen, in the end international trends and official resistance in both countries doomed all his efforts to establish joint ventures or conclude other deals with American interests in the years 1937– 41. According to the author, the sole exception was Ayukawa's purchase of the largest gold mine in Korea from an American company on the very eve of the war (although Udagawa has also noted that by mid-1939 MIDC had achieved some success in negotiating credit contracts with nine, mostly American, firms 3 ).

On the diplomatic front, Iguchi maintains that in the spring and summer of 1940 Ayukawa had a "limited possibility for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1549-4721
Print ISSN
0095-6848
Pages
pp. 436-440
Launched on MUSE
2006-07-13
Open Access
No
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