Since Japan's economic successes in the late 1970s forced us to abandon McGeorge Bundy's vision of the American economy as "the locomotive at the head of mankind," we have developed a schizophrenic attitude toward Japan. Publicly, we admire the Japanese, paying tribute in numerous business books. Yet between ourselves, we're more distrustful: Liberals such as Gore Vidal echo old heralds of "yellow peril" (warning that "the long-feared Asiatic colossus" could totally subordinate Europe and America), while conservatives such as Allan Bloom contend that public schools threaten the very survival of our Euro-American heritage by offering courses in Asian and Third World culture.
The authors--Joel Kotkin is an editor of Inc. magazine, Yoriko Kishimoto is a Pacific Rim business consultant--do little to calm these fears, except to predict vaguely that Asian and Hispanic immigration will energize America, as did 19th Century European immigration.
Their economic arguments, however, are powerfully persuasive, showing that we can no longer afford to ignore new and dramatic business opportunities in India, China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Singapore. Kotkin and Kishimoto's message is at once critical (American leaders have failed to realize that global economic rivalry has replaced East-West military competition) and optimistic (American entrepreneurs have beaten Japan's behemoth corporations in several high-tech races and can do so again).