JFTC Essay Competition

Summaries of the Award-Winning Essays of JFTC Essay Competition 2007

The Prize for Excellence

The Win-win-win Globalization and Japanese Companies

Mr. Heng DYNA (Cambodian, age 24)

Financial globalization is one of the key trends that have reshaped the global economy. Meanwhile, countries have become more interdependent and competitive than ever. With the surge in capital flows, the rise of developing countries, and intensified global competition, how should Japanese companies compete and thrive?

I argue that synergy between Japan’s technology and human resources with the rise of financial globalization is a critical factor for Japanese companies’ success in the next stage. Three things need to accompany the synergy. First, Japan needs to leverage the international capital flows. The acquisition of capital will help Japan secure an advantageous position. Second, Japanese companies should remain to be “leading geese” by constantly strengthening their competitiveness and capability of leverage in technology, finance, and human resources. Third, by being “leading geese”, Japanese companies can reinforce their brand image and create more demand for their products through collaboration and leverage of resources in emerging economies.

Japan is an export-oriented economy. The threat for the Japanese companies is not only from other countries’ companies, but also from the huge gap between its economic powers and its Asian friends’. To prop up its growth sustainability and further growth, Japan needs to help fill the gap. In this matter, I am convinced that Japanese companies can create demand and renews their brand image at the same time by contributing to the stability and poverty reduction in the region. As Japanese population began to shrink, the efficient utilization of low-wage labor and the acquisition of brainpower in developing countries will help solve the labor-force problem and help expand Japanese companies` operation, share, and brand in the global economy.

I believe that the combination of Japanese technology and global capital can produce win-win-win outcomes for the participating stakeholders. It does not only benefit Japanese companies and the capitalists but also help push host countries of investment out of poverty. It is, thus, the interest of Japanese companies to realize that combination.

The Prize for Excellence

Gundamnomics: Transforming Corporate Japan for the Challenges of Global Capitalism

Mr. Pin-Quan NG (Singaporean, age 22)

It is no surprise that in August 2007, Michael Bay’s Transformers debuted in Japan with an opening weekend of ¥631.3 million, the number one at the Japanese box office. The Transformers franchise, from which Bay’s film was adapted, began with a 1980s animated television series that was not only based on designs by Japanese toy manufacturer Takara and produced by Toei Animation, but was also inspired by the classic Japanese animation genre of giant transforming robots that includes Voltron, Super Dimension Fortress Macross, and Mobile Suit Gundam. If this genre was a metaphor for the successful postwar transformation of the Japanese economy into a global powerhouse, Transformers is not merely a part of Japanese cultural imagination, but may well be the history of corporate Japan – and perhaps also its future.

With the passing of the ‘lost decade’, it is time for corporate Japan to undertake a new strategic transformation to meet the dynamic challenges of global capitalism. In this essay, I argue that the collapse of the asset-price bubble and subsequent banking crisis created fundamental systemic changes to Japan’s political economy and institutions, and heightened its sensitivity to international capital markets and global economic forces. These challenges will require Japanese companies to achieve an efficient allocation of physical, financial, and human capital by adjusting their human resource management policies to leverage on foreign and female talent, adopting a more meritocratic and flexible corporate culture, and changing their approach to corporate governance.

The Prize for Excellence

Responding to Global Capitalism: Today’s Priority on Japan’s Business Agenda

Ms. Séphora Volcy (French, age 23)

After being devastated by World War II, Japan experienced a spectacular economic upturn. The rebuilding of the country and its growth rate were quite outstanding. Then, this phoenix-like recovery was deeply affected by deflation, during the Asian crisis which set off in 1997. This tough patch even reminded the Wall Street Crash of 1929 to some extent. It noticeably caused harm to the Japanese thriving economy.

Today, Japan has to face globalization, wondering if its businesses can actually deal with such a complex economic environment. This essay is meant to suggest initiatives Japanese firms might consider, in order to be fit for the present capitalism system. Of course, it puts forward various measures to implement at a corporate level.

However, national economic orientations are still decided by each country’s political forces, even though globalization makes them less influential than they used to. Consequently, I also chose to mention a bit the strategic part the government and its regulation process could play. In fact, History proves that the Japanese State has substantial power over economic actors. This country is anxious to keep a close eye on foreign competition and tends to overprotect its market.

First of all, I opted for an analysis of the Japanese culture, as it will undoubtedly be relevant to understand Japan’s management style, and its consistency with the principles of global capitalism.

Then, I explained how crucial it is for Japan to develop quality relationships and partnerships with its neighbors – and even countries from other continents – in the current economic context. The stake of inspiring confidence and displaying a favorable image abroad is obviously huge for business reasons.

In conclusion, I thought Japan should reconsider its own definition of capitalism, and wonder if adopting the American model really is the only option left to capture the global market.

The Prize for Excellence

A Proposal for Japanese Companies: Become Alert and Solid Corporations

Mr. Wataru KAMIYA (Japanese, age 33)
(the original text is Japanese)

The environment surrounding Japanese corporations has changed greatly with the trend of global capitalism. Japanese companies have come to place increasingly great importance on shareholders, and it has become commonplace for old-style Japanese corporations, that are not able to bring out their own potential value, to be approached for buyout by foreign funds. On the other hand, concern persists that Japanese corporations will be preyed on by foreign capital by adapting to global capitalism. The stance found among Japanese corporations and the government in recent years to “protect” Japanese corporations from global capitalism is thought to reflect this concern. This paper clarifies the main task facing Japanese corporations and proposes how they should address the issue of adapting to global capitalism amid this environment.

The main task facing Japanese corporations amid the trend of global capitalism is to address the fact that past business rules based on “amae” or the presumption of stakeholders’ favor no longer function. This paper discusses corporations’ relationships with their rivals, employees, and business partners and points out how much Japanese corporations have built these relationships on “amae” in the past.

Based on this task, the paper proposes that Japanese corporations become alert and solid corporations by doing the following: a) eliminating “amae,” b) shifting from inward-looking thinking, and c) adopting a long-term perspective.

Regarding the first point of “eliminating ‘amae,’” Japanese companies must develop a thorough understanding of accountability centered on the concept of fairness, and they must reform their company awareness based on the principles used in internal control. Regarding the second point of “shifting from inward-looking thinking,” Japanese corporations and the government should not continue to take the position of “protecting” Japanese corporations, but should adopt the perspective of actively adapting to and using the trend of global capitalism. Regarding the final point of “adopting a long-term perspective,” the paper proposes the need for Japanese corporations to adopt a long-term perspective, something they tend to slightly neglect, in order to adapt to the trend of global capitalism, and the paper proposes two means for this: the long-term employment and development of human resources and the transfer of authority to the field or locale.