JAPAN WITHOUT BLINDERS by Phillip Oppenheim

JAPAN WITHOUT BLINDERS

Coming to Terms with Japan's Economic Success

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A British MP's cleareyed and tellingly detailed assessment of just what the West is up against in its economic rivalry with Japan. Employing both statistical data and anecdotal case studies, Oppenheim effectively scotches any comforting notion that Japan's competitive edge has been built on monopolistic, even underhanded, practices--cartelization, government subsidies for key industries, protectionist policies that keep foreign companies out of domestic markets, patent infringement, etc. Instead, he insists, Japan simply has mobilized the country's scanty resources, human and otherwise, to achieve as well as sustain economic growth, in the process besting its trading partners at what once was their own game. What's more, the author shows, aggrieved adversaries--most notably, the US and EC members--are themselves increasingly reliant on dirty tricks (e.g., import barriers, antidumping strictures) to keep Japanese suppliers at bay. Whether voluntary or structural, he argues, restraints of any sort afford indigenous manufacturers a price umbrella and cost consumers dearly. At last count, Oppenheim points out, over one thousand multinationals had wholly or partially owned subsidiaries operating in Japan; many (including the blue-chip likes of Coke, Dunlop, IBM, McDonald's, and Schick) had gained dominant positions in their chosen markets. In the meantime, he observes, Japan is undergoing demographic, fiscal, political, and societal changes that could create genuine opportunities for patient, disciplined enterprises to compete with their Japanese counterparts at home as well as offshore. Nor does the author deem the Pacific Basin colossus a commercially irresistible force. Drawing on an object lesson from the past toward the close of his cautionary, contrarian text, he recalls how UK forces in WW II Burma eventually wrested victory from defeat by appropriating and adapting the jungle-fighting tactics of their Japanese foes. A sobering analysis whose timely message is summarized by Shakespeare in Julius Caesar: ``The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves....'

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
ISBN: 4-77001-682-4
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Kodansha
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1992