ZAIBATSU AMERICA: How Japanese Firms Are Colonizing Vital U.S. Industries by Robert L. Kearns

ZAIBATSU AMERICA: How Japanese Firms Are Colonizing Vital U.S. Industries

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A journalist formerly with Forbes and Reuters offers a wide-ranging and consistently perceptive assessment of Japanese investment in the US. For all the short-run benefits accruing from infusions of Japanese capital, Kearns warns, America's economic sovereignty is at risk, owing to the island nation's focused strategies. In brief, he points out that Japanese companies venture offshore in co-dependent groups (akin to the Zaibatsu outlawed during the post-WW II Occupation) whose putatively autonomous members are linked not only by common market objectives but also by interlocking equity stakes. Relying more on anecdotal than statistical evidence, the author documents the ways in which these enterprises aim at dominating targeted manufacturing industries worldwide. In his view, for example, Toyota's success in beating Motown in its own backyard is at least partially attributable to the fact that affiliated suppliers and depository institutions accompanied the car-maker to the New World. Kearns also recounts the comparable inroads Japan Inc. has made in Hollywood as well as in Silicon Valley. While America's competitiveness in international trade is being threatened from within, Kearns observes, structural impediments, plus an indigenous form of capitalism that's appreciably less open than its US counterpart, make stateside corporations ineffective rivals in the Japanese economy. Having made a generally persuasive case, however, the author offers broad advisories rather than detailed proposals for retrieving the situation--e.g., upgrading the domestic work force's skills, clarifying national economic policies, and stepping up R&D efforts. Nor docs Kearns take into adequate account turmoil on the Japanese economic front--for example, the prolonged slump in Tokyo's rigged stock market, which has created a capital shortage that, at a minimum, will boost the price of expansion funds. These cavils apart, an astute audit of an economic dilemma that demands analytic consideration of the sort at hand rather than the alarmist attention it so often has attracted.

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 1992
Page count: 300pp
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan