A Currency based on Coercion: The circulation of Japanese military yen in Hong Kong during 1941-45

Lucia SIU

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Abstract

A monetary token during wartime occupation is an example how the currency market, as the economic side of a battle frontline, can be enacted by force and coercion. This paper is an archival research on the circulation of Japanese military yen notes in Hong Kong during World War II. What happened when the love of money and resentment against a wartime enemy rest upon the same symbolic token? Wartime civilians had to risk brutal violence if they chose to hide away invalidated pre-war Hong Kong dollars, but holding military yens implied high risk of deflation. During the last months of Japanese occupation, the exchange rate of military Japanese yen with commodities and other currencies underwent extreme fluctuations. The printed pledge clause about equivalent exchange for Japanese yens was nullified under most contexts, but occasionally honoured under contingent conditions. One month after Japan surrendered in 1945, the British announced that military yens became void on 6 September 1945. The decision literally turned 1.9 billion military yens into waster papers overnight. Japan was exempted from indemnity to civilian holders of military yen notes by the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951, while wartime survivors in Hong Kong weeping upon chests of military yens had become a typical image of war memorial days for decades. Archival sources include three Chinese daily newspapers in Hong Kong in 1941-45, archival documents from the Hong Kong Public Records Office, government gazettes during the wartime occupation period, plus various biographies and historical titles.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2014
EventThe European Association for the Study of Science and Technology Conference 2014 : Situating Solidarities: social challenges for science and technology studies - Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun, Poland
Duration: 17 Sep 201419 Sep 2014
http://www.easst.umk.pl/the-conference/

Conference

ConferenceThe European Association for the Study of Science and Technology Conference 2014
Abbreviated titleEASST 2014
CountryPoland
CityTorun
Period17/09/1419/09/14
Internet address

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Bibliographical note

Panel: Can markets solve problems?

Cite this

SIU, L. (2014). A Currency based on Coercion: The circulation of Japanese military yen in Hong Kong during 1941-45. Paper presented at The European Association for the Study of Science and Technology Conference 2014 , Torun, Poland.