In the tropical city state of Singapore, scores of factory buildings are emblazoned with the logos of American computer companies such as Apple, Compaq, Seagate, Western Digital, and Hewlett-Packard. Trucks roll away from loading docks carrying personal computers, monitors, printers, and disk drives bound for air cargo terminals at Changi International Airport and then to markets around the world. Meanwhile, other cargo planes are arriving filled with various components and subassemblies from Taiwan, Malaysia, and Thailand to supply the just-in-time production schedules of the same American companies.
In Scotts Valley, California, Seagate engineers are designing a new generation of hard disk drives. They make regular flights to Singapore to confer with process engineers at the plant where the first production models will be built. In turn, these engineers consult with the plant manager and engineers in Penang, Malaysia, and Bangkok, Thailand, where critical subassemblies will be manufactured.
Meanwhile, in Singapore's rival city-state of Hong Kong, AST Research announced in 1995 that it was shutting down the colony's last remaining PC assembly line. AST followed most of Hong Kong's electronics manufacturers to China, taking advantage of the mainland's lower wages while still managing its business from offices in Hong Kong.
In Taiwan's Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park, a little-known company called Mitac is busy designing and building PCs for Compaq. Mitac ships the computers directly to Compaq's distributors in the United States and even provides support services to Compaq's customers. Other Taiwanese companies design and build computers for Apple, Compaq, Dell, NEC-Packard Bell, and most of the world's other leading PC makers.
Elsewhere, in Korea and Japan, billion-dollar factories produce memory chips and LCD screens that are stuffed into computers of every make, but few of those computers carry Japanese or Korean brand names. Companies