Manchu five-year plans of the Japanese military

Fushun coal mine, the largest in Manchuria and in the world

This part of the history of World War II is little known due to the almost complete absence and rarity of literature, especially in Russian. This is the military-economic development of Manchukuo, a state formally independent, but actually controlled by the Japanese, or, more precisely, by the command of the Kwantung Army. The Japanese captured a very large part of China, a kind of Chinese Siberia, with a thriving agriculture and agricultural resettlement from other provinces of China, and carried out industrialization there.

The industrialization of Manchuria was carried out, of course, in the interests of the Japanese military. However, its methods, goals and general appearance were so similar to industrialization in the USSR that research on this topic was clearly discouraged. Otherwise, one could come to an interesting question: if Soviet industrialization was for the people, and Manchu industrialization was for the Japanese military, then why are they so similar?

If we abandon emotions, then it should be noted: two extremely similar cases of industrialization of previously poorly developed industrialized territories are of great scientific value for studying the general laws of initial industrialization.

Manchuria is not a bad trophy

Torn away from China in late 1931 – early 1932 by Japanese troops, Manchuria was a very significant trophy for the Japanese. Its total population was 36 million people, including about 700 thousand Koreans and 450 thousand Japanese. From the moment when in 1906 Japan received the South Manchurian Railway from Russia through the Portsmouth Peace Treaty (the Changchun – Port Arthur branch), resettlement from Japan and Korea began to this part of Manchuria.

Manchuria annually produced about 19 million tons of grain crops, mined about 10 million tons of coal, 342 thousand tons of pig iron. There was a powerful railway, the large port of Dairen, at that time the second largest port on the entire coast of China after Shanghai, with a capacity of about 7 million tons per year. Already in the early 1930s, there were about 40 airfields, including in Mukden and Harbin airfields with repair and assembly workshops.

In other words, by the time of the Japanese seizure, Manchuria had a very well-developed economy, which possessed huge and almost untouched reserves of all kinds of minerals, free lands, vast forests, suitable for river hydro-construction. The Japanese set about transforming Manchuria into a large military-industrial base and were very successful in this.

A characteristic feature of Manchuria was that the command of the Kwantung Army, which actually controlled it, was categorically opposed to attracting large Japanese concerns to its development, since the military did not like the capitalist element typical of the Japanese economy, which was difficult to control. Their slogan was: “Development of Manchukuo without capitalists”, based on centralized management and planned economy. Therefore, the Manchu economy was initially completely dominated by the South Manchu Railway (or Mantetsu), a large concern that had exclusive rights and owned everything from railways and coal mines to hotels, the opium trade and brothels.

“Asia-Express” UMZD at the station, most likely in Mukden

However, large-scale development required capital, and the Japanese militarists in Manchuria had to negotiate with the large Japanese concern Nissan, established in 1933 as a result of the merger of the automobile company DAT Jidosha Seizo with the metallurgical company Tobata. Founder Yoshisuke Aikawa (also known as Gisuke Ayukawa) quickly found a common language with the Japanese military, began to produce trucks, aircraft and engines for them. In 1937, the concern moved to Manchuria and took the name Manchurian Heavy Industry Development Company (or Mangyo). Two companies, Mangyo and Mantetsu, divided spheres of influence, and industrialization in Manchuria began.

The first five-year plan

In 1937, the first five-year development plan was drawn up in Manchuria, which initially included investments of 4.8 billion yen, then, after two revisions, the plans increased to 6 billion yen, including 5 billion yen was directed to heavy industry. Just like in the first five-year plan in the USSR.

Coal. There were 374 coal-bearing regions in Manchuria, of which 40 were under development. The five-year plan provided for an increase in production to 27 million tons, then up to 38 million tons, but was not implemented, although production increased to 24.1 million tons. However, the Japanese tried to mine the most valuable coal first. The Fushun coal mines, created by the Russians during the construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway and the South Caucasus Railway, acquired the largest open-pit coal mine at that time for the production of high-quality coking coal. He was taken to Japan.

And Fushun Coal Mines

Coal was to become a raw material for the production of synthetic fuel. Four synthetic fuel plants with a total capacity of up to 500 thousand tons per year were under construction. In addition, there were oil shale reserves in Fushun, for the development of which a refinery was built. The plan provided for the production of 2.5 million tons of oil and 670 million liters (479 thousand tons) of gasoline.

Cast iron and steel. In Manchuria, a large Siova metallurgical plant was built in Anshan, which the Japanese viewed as a response to the Kuznetsk metallurgical plant. It was well supplied with reserves of iron ore and coal. By the end of the first five-year plan, it had ten blast furnaces. In 1940, the plant produced 600 thousand tons of rolled steel per year.

In addition to him, the Benxihu steel plant was expanding, which was supposed to produce 1200 thousand tons of pig iron in 1943. It was an important plant. He smelted low-sulfur pig iron, which went to Japan to smelt special steels.

Aluminum. For the development of aircraft construction in Manchuria, mining of shale containing alumina began, and two aluminum plants were built – in Fushun and Girin.

Manchuria even had its own “DneproGES” – the Shuifeng Hydroelectric Power Station on the Yalu River, bordering Korea and Manchuria. The dam, 540 meters long and 100 meters high, provided pressure for seven Siemens hydraulic units of 105 thousand kW each. The first unit was commissioned in August 1941 and gave electricity to supply the large metallurgical plant “Siova” in Anshan. The Japanese also built a second large hydroelectric power station – Fynmanskaya on the Songhua River: 10 hydroelectric units of 60 thousand kW each. The station was commissioned in March 1942 and gave current to Xinjin (now Changchun).

“Mangyo” was the core of industrialization, it included: “Manchurian Coal Company”, metallurgical plants “Siova” and Benxihu, production of light metals, mining and production of non-ferrous metals, as well as the automobile plant “Dova”, “Manchurian Joint Stock Company of Heavy Engineering », Industrial engineering company, aircraft company, and so on. In other words, the Japanese counterpart of the People’s Commissariat of Heavy Industry.

In July 1942, a meeting was held in Xinjing that summed up the results of the first five-year plan. In general, the plan was fulfilled by 80%, but there was a good effect on a number of points. Pig iron smelting increased by 219%, steel – by 159%, rolled metal – by 264%, coal mining – by 178%, copper smelting – by 517%, zinc – by 397%, lead – by 1223%, aluminum – by 1666% … The commander of the Kwantung Army, General Umezu Yoshijiro, could have exclaimed: “We did not have heavy industry, we have it now!”

General Umezu Yoshijiro, Commander of the Kwantung Army


Manchuria acquired a large industrial capacity and was now able to produce a lot of weapons. There is little information about this, since the Japanese classified them with the beginning of the war and published almost nothing. But something is known about it.

The aircraft building plant in Mukden, according to some reports, could produce up to 650 bombers and up to 2500 engines per year.

The Dova car plant in Mukden could produce 15-20 thousand trucks and cars a year. In 1942, Andong also opened a second car assembly plant. There was also a rubber products factory in Mukden, which produced 120 thousand tires a year.

Two steam locomotive factories in Dairen, another steam locomotive factory in Mukden and a wagon factory in Mudanjiang – with a total capacity of 300 steam locomotives and 7,000 wagons per year. For comparison: in 1933, YMZhD had 505 steam locomotives and 8.1 thousand freight cars.

Japanese officers next to the Shinhoto Chi-Ha tank. Manchuria, 1944

In Mukden, among other things, the Mukden Arsenal arose – a conglomerate of 30 industries that produced rifles and machine guns, assembled tanks, produced cartridges and artillery ammunition. In 1941, the Manchurian Powder Company appeared with six factories in the main industrial centers of Manchuria.

Second five-year plan

Very little is known about him, and only from the works of American researchers who studied documents and materials captured in Japan. In Russia, in principle, there should be trophy documents from Manchuria, but so far they have not been studied at all.

The second five-year plan in Manchuria was not a separate plan, like the first, but was developed in close integration with the needs of Japan and was, in fact, part of the general plans for the military-economic development of Japan, including all the occupied territories.

It placed greater emphasis on the development of agriculture, the production of cereals, especially rice and wheat, as well as soybeans, and the development of light industry. This circumstance, just as in the second five-year plan in the USSR, was due to the fact that the industrial swing should still be based on the proportional development of agriculture, which provides food and raw materials. Moreover, Japan was more in need of food.

The details of the second five-year plan and the development of Manchuria in 1942-1945 still require research. But for now, a couple of strange circumstances can be pointed out.

First, the strange and yet inexplicable decline in production in 1944 compared to 1943. In 1943, pig iron smelting amounted to 1.7 million tons, in 1944 – 1.1 million tons. Steel smelting: 1943 – 1.3 million tons, in 1944 – 0.72 million tons. At the same time, coal production remained at the same level: 1943 – 25.3 million tons, 1944 – 25.6 million tons. What happened in Manchuria that steel production was cut by almost half? Manchuria was far from the theaters of operations, it was not bombed, and this cannot be explained by purely military reasons.

Secondly, there is interesting data that for some reason the Japanese created huge capacities for the production of rolled steel in Manchuria. In 1943 – 8.4 million tons, and in 1944 – 12.7 million tons. This is strange, since the steelmaking capacity and the rolled metal production capacity are usually balanced. The capacities were loaded by 31% and 32%, respectively, which gives the output of rolled products in 1943 2.7 million tons, and in 1944 – 6 million tons.

If this is not the mistake of the American researcher R. Myers from the University of Washington, who published these data, then this is an extremely interesting military-economic fact. In 1944, Japan produced 5.9 million tons of steel. If in addition to this there was also the production of 6 million tons of rolled products, then Japan in total possessed very significant resources for steel, and, therefore, for the production of weapons and ammunition. If this is true, then Japan should have received from somewhere outside a significant amount of steel suitable for processing into rolled products, most likely from China. This point is not yet clear, but it is very intriguing.

In general, there is still much to explore in the military and economic history of World War II, and the military economy of the Japanese Empire and the occupied territories is in the first place here.

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