Made In Japan? Not anymore, it would seem
By Hamish Champ
Posted 18 September 2012
When I was growing up I became familiar with a phrase that shaped my young view of the world: ‘Made In Japan’.
Such was Japan’s rate of economic growth throughout the late 1960s and into the 1970s that it seemed as if everything one touched was made in that country: cars, cameras, leisure products, electrical goods, live rock albums, etc.
The best live album ever recorded
Of course not everything was made in Japan, but perception is a powerful thing. That said, the country was one of the world’s economic powerhouses for more than two decades, second only to the US.
Now, other than the odd large investment in a UK car assembly plant, Japan barely gets a mention. This is thanks in large part to the phenomenal rise of China and India, whose rising populations are aspirational and hungry for lifestyles they see elsewhere in the world.
Where Japan does score highly is its trading relationship with China - trade between the two was worth $345bn last year - which makes the current protests over Japan's ownership of a small group of islands all the more worrying.
Sovereignty rows aside, China’s economic rise has been well-documented, yet the issues governing its economy are mightily complex.
Growth, meteoric in the first years of the 21st Century, has slowed; some say alarmingly.
Commentators suggest economic growth in China is likely to slow to around 7% to 7.5% this year, a range deemed by some as a 'hard landing'.
Others argue a ‘V’-shaped recovery is in already in view, thanks to political intervention - not least the recently announced £500bn-worth of infrastructure investment.
Meanwhile India is creeping up on the inside rail. A London-based economics professor reckons India will overtake China in 2048 to become the world’s largest economy.
Some people I spoke to last week reckon it will be a lot sooner than that.
Where this leaves the US and other western economies such as Germany, France and the UK is anyone’s guess, but the competition is likely to get a lot tougher.
Meanwhile China’s government is implementing a round of macro control policies in an attempt to stabilise its economy.
If nothing else this is a salutary reminder that despite moves towards becoming a freer marketplace, with new trading zones and growing prosperity apparently visible at every turn, for the foreseeable future China’s economic destiny remains firmly in the hands of the political elite.
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