Monday, April 16, 2012

Rust Belt Japan

While Japan Inc. continues its spectacular decline, the United States debates the future of manufacturing. The Made in America optimist can cite Germany as a way forward. I'm a pessimist, a cynic, and I wonder about the fate of Japan:

The reversals have gripped Japan with a sense of national angst over its future, though economists are divided over how much the nation will actually deindustrialize — and whether a shift away from factories is really such a bad thing. Most economists agree that Japan, which rose to economic superpower status in the 1980s by building compact sedans and color televisions, has outgrown the “Asian Miracle” template and needs a new economic strategy. What that approach should be, though, is the subject of intense and growing debate.

“It is time for Japan to find a new model for its economy,” said Masatomo Onishi, a professor of business at Kansai University. “We can follow the United States into a more postindustrial economy, or we can follow Germany into high-end manufacturing, but we shouldn’t be trying to compete with China in mass production.”

I think there is a third option, a post-postindustrial economy. It's the Talent Economy and Japan could look to India for examples of best practices. People are leaving the United States in droves because energy, growth, and innovation is elsewhere:

The United States government does not collect data specifically on the emigration of the American-born children of immigrants — or on those who were born abroad but moved to the United States as young children.

But several migration experts said the phenomenon was significant and increasing.

“We’ve gone way beyond anecdotal evidence,” said Edward J. W. Park, director of the Asian Pacific American Studies Program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

Mr. Park said this migration was spurred by the efforts of some overseas governments to attract more foreign talent by offering employment, investment, tax and visa incentives.

“So it’s not just the individuals who are making these decisions,” he said. “It’s governments who enact strategic policies to facilitate this.

Emphasis added. India has a geoeconomic strategy to dominate the Talent Economy. Return migration isn't just happening. It is being facilitated and focused.

In the United States, the Rust Belt is struggling with the same dilemma as Japan. Should it double down on a manufacturing revival? Or should it export people instead of goods? The Rust Belt is a lot like India. Talent is leaving Brooklyn and returning home to find the energy, growth, and innovation. Again, from the New York Times:

Reetu Jain, raised in Texas, in Mumbai, India. "We're surrounded by people who just want to try something new," she said.

Jain didn't have to move to Mumbai to be surrounded by people who just want to try something new. She could have relocated to Pittsburgh. Return migration, not manufacturing or shale gas, is fueling the Rust Belt revival.

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