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International -- Readers Report
"Brainwashing" Stymies Japan's Managers (int'l edition)
Japan Inc.'s young management blood will never turn companies Around unless they change the fundamental social functioning of our country ("Fetch me a Westerner," Asian Business, Mar. 8).
From the West, Japan may appear to be a democratic country, but it is not. Individual well-being takes a backseat to the prosperity of organizations. People have been psychologically manipulated, through education and corporate induction rituals, to suppress personal feelings in order not to destroy the "managed harmony" of groups. Self-sacrifice for the organization has been elevated, to the detriment of personal lives. In the West, our system would be recognized as nothing less than brainwashing, but to most Japanese, it is so insidious as to be imperceptible.
Furthermore, "consensus-based" decision-making has created tacit agreements that everyone is responsible for decisions, but nobody is accountable. Together with other nondemocratic features, this has not only created a brain-dead system, but also never allowed our country to produce leaders with the clear vision or emotional strength to implement bold measures. It has produced incompetent, indecisive elites, contaminated with corruption, as demonstrated by recurring scandals.
Our country needs skilled specialists who are on a par with their international counterparts. Fortunately, Japan has many enthusiastic, business-oriented young people with graduate degrees, including MBAs from the West. If Japanese companies would regard these degrees not as honorary medals but as appropriate qualifications for higher duties, the organizational health would improve without many Jack Welches.
TokyoReturn to top
Behind Coke and Pepsi's Water Fight (int'l edition)
Once again, it seems that Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. are arming themselves to the teeth, this time with water cannon and water pistols, against all challengers in the latest war--bottled water ("Guess who wants to make a splash in water?" American News, Mar. 1). As they strive for a larger slice of a watery pie, it's time for us to reflect: Why is the bottled-water market growing at such a tremendous rate? Is it due to a loss of confidence in the quality of the public water supply? Does it arise from local water shortages brought about by mismanagement and waste, which prompt bottlers to ship water across continents to salve our thirst?
Whatever the reason, we can be sure that safe sources of water will become scarce in the next century. Surely it is our duty, the drinks industry included, to take steps to protect that supply so everyone has clean water, not just those who can afford the bottled variety.
SingaporeReturn to top
Why the Japanese Market Isn't So Promising (int'l edition)
Professor Jeffrey Garten misreads the implications of the decision by U.S. firms to buy into Japan Inc. ("What's the most promising emerging market? Japan," Economic Viewpoint, Mar. 1). For the most part, they bought into world-class multinationals. Most purchases were made at substantial discounts. This does not indicate confidence in Japan's domestic economy.
As for the Keynesian pump-priming he alludes to, my projection is that it will fail miserably. There is a chronic disinclination to spend that cannot be resolved by throwing money at Japanese consumers or by inflating the money supply. Japanese do not spend, because they are worried about whether they will lose their jobs. Demography is also working against rising consumption due to the swelling ranks of the elderly, who are anything but mall rats. Taxpayers who face huge bills for recapitalizing the banks and for additional government spending must put away funds in anticipation of rising taxes in the future. Perhaps the best solution is for there to be thoroughgoing tax reform--e.g., a flat tax. When businesses and consumers see a lower future burden, they will be willing to spend today.
Hong KongReturn to top