TRADE CONFLICTS BETWEEN JAPAN AND THE UNITED STATES(1) – US OBSERVERS

In the past two years, the United States has been exerting pressure on China, especially in the economic and technological fields. The U.S. election is approaching, and the actions have been exceptionally large. Politicians have regarded China as their political capital and provoked rounds of confrontation. The rise of emerging powers will inevitably be accompanied by challenges to predominant powers. In the leadership of international affairs, the United States has felt the pressure from China, and will spare no effort to contain China in order to ensure its hegemony. This reminds me of Japan. The rise of Japan made the United States feel that its hegemony was challenged, and then it was hit by the United States and plunged into a 30-year stagnation.

 How did the United States suppress Japan decades ago? After World War II, Japan’s industrial capabilities were basically destroyed, the economy was dismembered by the Allies, and it was not allowed to own an army, and became a vassal of the United States. However, the Cold War caused the United States to change its policy toward Japan. During the Korean War and the Vietnam War, Japan became a vassal of the United States. The rear area provides supplies for the battlefield. During this period, in order to contain the needs of the other side’s camp, the United States provided great economic assistance to Japan. Soon, Japan resumed its industrial capacity and gained development in technology and military industries. In the 1960s, supported by the United States, Japan accepted the industrial transfer of American companies, and advanced production lines were directly built in Japan. With the addition of high-quality, low-cost labor, in the 1970s, Japan had a group of great company all over the world, such as Panasonic, Toshiba, Hitachi, Mitsubishi and other familiar brands. In those years, U.S. companies are far behind Japanese companies, and what is even more amazing is the development of Japan in the semiconductor field. In the 1970s, Japan almost made a national effort to develop the semiconductor industry. The government provided huge subsidies and vigorously supported theoretical research in related fields, laying the foundation for its subsequent take-off. In the 1980s, memory became a very prosperous business. Toshiba and NEC relied on DRAM to become big brothers, and even companies such as Intel and AMD were “hammered”. At that time, six of the top ten semiconductor companies in the world were Japanese, and the top three were NEC, Toshiba, and Hitachi.

In 1964, Tokyo successfully hosted the Olympic Games, and the high-speed rail Shinkansen started to run in the same year. It was an important symbol of Japan’s post-war recovery and becoming an economic power. From the 1960s to the 1970s, Japan’s economy developed rapidly, surpassing European countries, becoming the world’s second largest economy, with an average annual GDP growth of about 10%, and a maximum of 12% a year. The global market has made Japanese companies profitable. However, at the same time, the yen began to appreciate slowly. In 1949, Japan implemented a fixed exchange rate with a ratio of 360:1 to the US dollar. Today it is 106:1, and the yen has gradually appreciated. Other countries will spend more money to import Japanese goods, and the competitiveness of Japanese companies in international trade will decline. It’s not that there is no benefit from appreciation. Japanese companies import raw materials is cheaper than before, but the cost reduction is limited. It cannot recover the loss on exports. The exchange rate issue has a greater impact on Japan’s finances.     At that time, some people in Japan began to bring up and start talking about nationalism, thinking that Japan would surpass the United States and become the world’s number one. Right-wing Congressman Shintaro Ishihara, and later Sony’s founder Akio Morita wrote a book, “Japan Can Say No.” They advocated that Japan should improve its autonomous status in various fields such as economy and diplomacy. It should not always bow to the United States, but should say “no” to the United States. U.S. capital has always been upset watching Japan’s rise.

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