BEYOND NATIONAL BORDERS: Reflections on Japan and the World by Kenichi Ohmae

BEYOND NATIONAL BORDERS: Reflections on Japan and the World

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Management consultant Ohmae, McKinsey's MIT-educated man in Tokyo, published these observations on multinational commerce in Japanese last year to remind his countrymen that they're citizens of an increasingly interdependent global village. Though doubtful his impressionistic approach would play well here, Ohmae translated the unexpectedly successful book into English. He need not have worried. The thoughtful text offers eye-opening intelligence as well as insights that just might slow, if not halt, the us-against-them drift in American trade policy. Ohmae starts by chiding his fellows for insularity and parochialism, charging among other things that Japan's vaunted management corps has trouble training executives with finesse enough to handle overseas assignments. ""We make 'ugly Americans' in Europe look polished,"" he notes. The need for qualified personnel has become pressing, the author argues, because life styles and consumption patterns in the industrialized powers are demonstrably homogeneous. As a practical matter, he contends, the combined populations of Japan, the US, and Western Europe comprise a single market with common tastes and needs. To survive and thrive in this triad marketplace, Ohmae concludes, corporations must be willing to move adaptively into outlets beyond their own national borders. Almost casually, he suggests a three-way axis that could supply neocolonial solutions to nagging North/South problems. Japan, for example, would take regional responsibility for developing countries in Southeast Asia, while the US kept Latin America under its socioeconomic wing and Europe retained its ties to Africa and the Mideast. Along his visionary way, Ohmae never loses touch with quotidian realities. Like Robert C. Christopher in Second to None (1986), he notes that Japan is literally awash in foreign-brand merchandise. In his view, though, the island nation (whose labor-intensive industries are moving either offshore or to the hinterlands) would profit on a long-term basis from making its partially protected domestic market more accessible to goods from abroad. In brief, then, a provocative, closely reasoned challenge to conventional wisdom on national interests, which speaks to the West as well as East across a rapidly widening gulf.

Pub Date: March 16th, 1987
Publisher: Dow Jones-Irwin