‘Separating the Roots of the Chrysanthemum’: Nishihara Kamezō and the Abortive China Loans, 1917-18
In the period between 1917 and 1918, a series of mysterious loans negotiated between Japanese middleman Nishihara Kamezō 西原亀三 and the government of warlord Duan Qirui 段祺瑞 amounted to the fabulous amount of ¥145,000,000. Although reporting about these loans at the time was confused to say the least, we now know that there existed definite and close relationships between Nishihara Kamezō on the one hand, and the Terauchi Cabinet in Tokyo, in the person of then Minister of Finance Shōda Kazue 勝田主計 in particular.1 Analyzing the Nishihara loans in their geopolitical and historical particularity and isolation is, however, to miss the point. In what context(s) were these infamous loans raised? What was, for instance the nature of their geopolitical climate and their international institutional character? Next, in what respect did the Nishihara loans differ from earlier, more 'official' instances of yen diplomacy? In what respect did they represent a break with former administrations, and, more importantly, did their exist a broad consensus about their objectives and appropriateness? And not in the least: how did China's turbulent politics contribute to their ill fate?
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