South Manchurian Railway Company

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Originally a railroad terminating in the Kwangtung Leasehold, the South Manchuria Railway Company (SMRC) (Minami Manshu Tetsudo Kabushiki-gaisha) became a diversified Japanese industrial company whose economic interests bore on Japanese strategy in Manchuria and China. It also provided cover for human-source intelligence operations, principally by the Kwangtung Army and of which official Tokyo was not always aware.

Its first component was the southern spur of Chinese Eastern Railway (Changchun to Port Arthur), ceded to Japan by Russia after the Russo-Japanese War. The company itself was formed in 1906, transferred to Manchukuo in 1935, and dissolved in 1945.[1]

It was one of the first multinational corporations that Japan used in Asia, although it also had attributes of nationally chartered firms such as the East India Company or the United Fruit Company.[2] The SMRC was actually less confrontational than some of the other companies, since there was more shared culture between China and Japan than, for example, India and Britain. Both had an interest in reducing Western influence.[3]

When Yosuke Matsuoka became its president in August 1935, he described the company as the sharp edge of Japanese economic warfare against China.

Because of the activities of the Soviet Union and the situation prevailing in China, Japan is going to start operations in North China. Most of the people do not yet qyute understand the great importance of tehse future operations, and their lack of understanding, I believe, will beyond doubt bring about a really serious crisis in the nation. Regardless of how serious the crisis may become, Japan cannot halt her North China operations. The arrow has already left the bow. The progress of these operations will decide the destiny of the Yamato race.[4]


  1. Foreign Concessions and Colonies, WorldStatesmen
  2. Daniel Litvin (2003), Empires of Profit: Commerce, Conquest and Corporate Responsibility, Texere, ISBN 978-1587991165, p. 74
  3. Litvin, p. 79
  4. Merion and Susie Harris (1991), Soldiers of the Sun: the Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army, Random House, p. 196