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(zī`bätso͞o) [Jap.,=money clique], the great family-controlled banking and industrial combines of modern Japan. The leading zaibatsu (called keiretsu after World War II) are Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Dai Ichi Kangyo, Sumitomo, Sanwa, and Fuyo. They gained a position in the Japanese economy with few parallels elsewhere, except for the chaebols that have dominated the South Korean economy from the 1960s. (The chaebols, however, have tended to be less involved in banking and more dependent on government financing.)

Although the Mitsui were powerful bankers under the shogunate, most of the other zaibatsu developed after the Meiji restoration (1868), when, by subsidies and a favorable tax policy, the new government granted them a privileged position in the economic development of Japan. Later they helped finance strategic semiofficial enterprises in Japan and abroad, particularly in Taiwan and Korea. In the early 1930s the military clique tried to break the economic power of the zaibatsu but failed.

In 1937 the four leading zaibatsu controlled directly one third of all bank deposits, one third of all foreign trade, one half of Japan's shipbuilding and maritime shipping, and most of the heavy industries. They maintained close relations with the major political parties. After Japan's surrender (1945) in World War II, the breakup of the zaibatsu was announced as a major aim of the Allied occupation, but in the 1950s and 1960s groups based on the old zaibatsu reemerged as keiretsu. The decision on the part of these groups in the post–World War II era to pool their resources greatly influenced Japan's subsequent rise as a global business power.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Japanese, “financial clique”), a name designating monopolies and financial oligarchy in modern Japan. Until the end of World War II (1939-45) zaibatsu were concerns that comprised dozens of different companies under the control of the head family company. The largest of these concerns were Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, and Yasuda. Zaibatsu controlled the major branches of the economy, contributed to the militarization of Japan, and promoted aggression.

After World War II the former concerns were reorganized along the lines of modern American and Western European monopolies, each concern being free to buy and sell stock and make extensive use of foreign capital. This led to a greater concentration of production and capital, especially in the 1960’s. Today zaibatsu are financial monopoly groups—the major ones being Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, Mitsui, Fuji, Daiichi-Kangyo, and Sanwa—comprising the country’s leading banks and insurance, industrial, and commercial companies. Zaibatsu have become stronger than ever since the war and are the leading force in the reactionary camp that governs Japan.


Pevzner, la. A. Gosudarstvenno-monopolisticheskii kapitalizm v laponii posle vtoroi mirovoi voiny. Moscow, 1961.
Pigulevskaia, E. A. Monopolii ifinansovaia oligarkhiia v sovremennoi laponii. Moscow, 1966.
Kutsobina, N. “Vosstanovlenie iaponskikh monopolii.” Mirovaia ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia, 1968, no. 9.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
In contrast, the Zaibatsu was a type of vertical conglomerate with a closely held company owned by the family at the top of the structure.
In particular we show that even though South Korea's chaebols were modeled after Japan's pre-war zaibatsu and China's business groups were modeled after Japan's pre-war zaibatsu as well as contemporary keiretsu business groups, their country-specific business and institutional circumstances imply different economic behavior for these business groups over time and hence different paths of economic development in these countries.
After the war, the old zaibatsu banks formed the core of new business associations called keiretsu, whose member companies hold equity stakes in each other's firms sharing voting rights and deciding policy in 'President's Assembly' (shacho-kai), regular meetings conducted confidentially among member chairmen, presidents and directors.
On the other hand, under the administration of former prime minister, Mahathir Mohammad, the developmental state model supports the domestic industries and the development of large conglomerates based on South Korean chaebols and Japanese zaibatsu (Gomez 2009).
Among their topics are the historical and financial characteristics of the South Korean zaibatsu, profit allocation rules to motivate inter-firm network partners to reduce overall costs, measuring performance of an inter-firm network in reducing total lead time for investment recovery, the organizational capacity of master data management for inter-firm integration, and coordinating supply chains by controlling the capacity usage rate in the Japanese car industry.
The financial cliques, known as zaibatsu, were dissolved, and farming lands were redistributed.
Fuji Bank had been one of the major banks during the post war era and was formed in 1948 as part of the Yasuda Zaibatsu. During the last half of the 20th century, Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank was one of the largest banks in the world and was formed in 1971 by merging Dai-Ichi and Nippon Kangyo Banks.
Associated with these kinds of trends in development, we find the rise in Asia of family based or kinbased or kin-modeled business corporations that achieve international standing (for instance, South Korean Chaebols, historical progression of Japanese Zaibatsu, Keiretzu, and Sogo shosha, Chinese Big Business Families, Hongs and Kong Si's.) We find similar descent group "clannishness" of many sectors of the Indian economy, including Bollywood, the government, medicine, the military and business.
(3) Japanese keiretsu structure originated from the prewar Zaibatsu, which are characterized by tight family control.
Most of them are the businessmen who run the giant corporations that used to be called zaibatsu (the pre-World War II industrial conglomerates) and the top layer of senior civil servants -- all of whom have been in bed with the LDP all of their working lives.