Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Japanese Technological Superiority - a Myth?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Japanese Technological Superiority - a Myth?

Article excerpt

WHY are members of the United States Congress opposing the US- Japanese joint venture to build the FSX fighter plane?

There is no doubt the US will transfer $7 billion worth of technology to Japan. Yet, does the technology transfer justify this new form of protectionism?

Japan-bashers say the joint project should be scrapped. First, buying American-made F-16s would be the cost-efficient option for Japan. The purchase of American planes would also help the $55 billion US trade deficit with Japan. Finally, an outright sale instead of a technology transfer would prevent the Japanese from "stealing" US technology, and preclude another Toshiba incident.

These arguments, however, are shortsighted. Critics of the FSX project are advocating technological mercantilism.

Pioneers of technological change, including the US, benefit when their technology becomes the world standard - even if they "give it away." It is simply incorrect to analyze technology transfers in monetary terms, because financial returns are seldom the primary consideration. What is most important is the protection of one's technological leadership. In this light, technology transfers benefit the exporters of technology because they forestall the emergence of alternative, and possibly superior, technologies. Competitors are transformed into functional subsidiaries.

We call this process functional integration. It is the emerging dominant strategy in international trade and development. US technology is not just a product for export; it is a tool of economic integration, and therefore of political power. Standardized technologies are major instruments of this political process.

Despite its glittering prosperity, Japan has based its development on American economic models, technology, and marketing expertise. Although few Americans realize it, Japanese management techniques, as exemplified by Toyota, have been based on the theories of W.Edwards Deming. Similarly, as Nintendo has demonstrated, Japanese marketing is based on fairly dated American models. …

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