Ahem.....back in the 60's and early 70's Japanese Imports were the by-word for cheap and nasty and disposable cars and electronics.
Not true. By the 1960s are certainly the early 70s, Japanese imports were certainly NOT considered cheap and nasty disposables. By the early 70s, some of the best TVs, High Fidelity equipment, camera and motorcycles were made in Japan.
Not quite true, while Japanese electronics were starting to make head way in the market place in the terms of perceived quality, the majority were still manufactured by firms such as Philps, Magnavox, Philco, Westinghouse, and others. The auto sector here in North America was still dominated by the Big 3 while the majority of imports carried the badges of VW, Fiat, MG, Jaguar and other European marques. Japanese cars were considered at the time to be a poor mans substitute for either home made products or European brands.
Now I grew up in the 70's and well remember the beginning of Japanese flood into the market place. The first push of that flood began with the OPEC Oil Embargo of the early '70's and people started to really consider fuel economy. However, once that scare was over, people again turned to big engined Big 3 products. But it did give the Japanese makers a firm toe hold in the market place.
But those early Japanese cars were considered to be of poorer or lesser quality of either the Big 3 products or European brand, especially in terms of fit and finish and reliability. Consider if you will the Honda Civic, a car known today as an icon of quiet luxury, quality workmanship and reliability. However the first models of that icon the Honda Civic CVCC from 1973 to 79 were known as 10,000 mile cars because after 10K miles the engines were knackered and the bodywork was well and truly rusted out. Same held true for the early Datsun (now known as Nissan) B series and Toyota's. What they did have over the competition was their selling price, even with import duties, they were still cheaper to buy and run then the domestic competition and other imports.
It should be noted in all fairness, when it came to quality, the majority of Japanese vehicles were actually no worse then those manufactured by the Big 3 at the time and quite honestly superiour to those being pumped out by British Leyland.
As for electronics, especially household entertainment electronics such a TV's and stereo's, Japanese brands were considered to be inferior in terms of quality of sound and picture and in terms of fit and finish of the unit itself. Back in the 70's a TV or stereo was looked upon as much a piece of furniture and decor and as such had for the most part lovely wooden cabinetry. These were items which were to be looked at as well as watched or listened to. Japanese products on the other hand had plastic or cheap tinny cabinets. They looked cheap and in many cases sounded cheap and was because they were cheap.
But it was that cheapness in cost that allowed the Japanese manufactures not only to enter into those marketplaces, but over time dominate them. Of course had the Japanese stayed with the cheap and cheerful, they would never of had taken over. Instead, they took their profits and reinvested them into producing better quality goods to replace those that sold before and have now worn out and needed replacing.
They also fully embrace and accepted technological change and improvements. While North American manufacturers basically stayed on the same course they have been navigating for decades and not adopting new ideas and technologies the Japanese did not. They would look at a technology such as semi-conductors and transistor and see how they could be incorporated into their product line. So by the 80's Japanese car manufacturers were producing cars and engines that were light years ahead of their North American competition and Japanese home entertainment started to ship TV's and stereo's that were smaller in size but with big and better picture and sound qualities. And because of their production philosophy, able to do it cheaper and on a much larger scale. By the mid 80's, the Japanese dominated the motorbike, automobile and electronic markets and for good reason.
ceemes wrote:By the mid 80's they had been transformed into the benchmarks for quality and reliability.
They had achieved this by the mid 70s.
No, they achieved it by the mid 80's, however by the mid 70's they were well on the road to success. But it did not start then, but rather at the end of WWII. By the end of the war, Japan's industrial base lay in a smoking ruin and needed to rebuilt from the ground up. However, the Japanese did not just rebuild their factories, they also rebuilt their manufacturing and supply chain philosophy from the ground up.
During the late 1920's and early 1930's American scholars such as Elton Mayo and Walter Shewhart began to develop the concepts around which what today we call Total Quality Management or TQM. TQM sits on the top of the quality process pyramid, below that is Quality Assurance and on the bottom level, Quality Control. Each of these three are basically processes that look at the quality of a product to ensure that it reaches the end user as advertised and ready to work. However, they take different approaches to achieving this goal.
In a traditional QC environment, an individual worker is not responsible for checking the quality of work done on component when it gets to them, all they have to do is their assigned task and pass the piece up the line. Quality checks are conducted at the end of the manufacturing process. Any defects are detected at that final stage and any defective unit is either scrapped or sent back to be rework. Two problems with this approach is it is actually rather costly and it does not allow the individual worker to take ownership of his or her duties.
Under TQM, each worker or stage in production is looked upon as the "customer" of those that proceeded him. And as a customer, the worker is expected to inspect each component sent to him and if it fails to meet standards, it is sent back down the line to be reworked or scrapped. This has the benefit on catching a defect sooner in the manufacturing process and actually saves on costs. It also empowers each worker in the decision making process and grants them ownership of their job. In some of the bigger Japanese factories, it is not all that unusual for a line worker to press the button that bring the entire process to a halt due to quality issues.
Also under the TQM system, all worker are encouraged to look at how a process is done and ask why this way and not some other? They are further encouraged to put for ideas for not only process improvement but also product improvement. This is a marked contrast to the QC and QA systems used in the west. It allows each individual worker to contribute to the whole beyond that of their job title and duties. And those that do come forth with workable ideas are acknowledged by not only their superiours, but also their colleagues and peers. The idea is driven from the top however it is enacted by the rank and file. These concepts were developed and tested in the 30's in the US, however they were and for the most part rejected by not only management but also unions and rank and file workers..
When Japan was rebuilding after the war, people such as Mayo were invited over to help with the rebuilding and the Japanese adopted their basic concepts, refined them and developed the TQM method. It was this method that allowed them to tap into the hidden raw talent of their workers. Quality improved, costs went down, production increased and labour satisfaction increased. During the 60's till the 80's, Japan was still producing the cheap goods we wanted from them, but they now were on the cusp of a quality revolution which would allow them to dominate the markets. By the mid 80's, Japanese goods had gone from being on the low end of price and quality scale to being the quality benchmark of the world.
Only German auto makers such as Daimler Benz, BMW and Audi rival the Japanese for quality. As for North American manufacturers, they are for the most part are still using the systems employed back at the turn of the 20th century, with a few minor improvements. Quality control is still an issue are management/labour relations.
Same thing for Korean auto's such as the Kia line, back in the late 90's to early 200? they were considered with good reason to be cheap and poorly built, today their quality is starting to rival that off both Japanese and European makers, the North American Big 3 as still stuck in the 60's.
South Korean automakers arrived here in the mid 1980s. To even compare South Korea to China is blasphemy and a total insult to South Korea. That being said, they struggled tremendously and it took far longer for them than they had ever imagined to even come close to par for the industry. To this date, their quality is nowhere up to snuff of the Japanese competition.
Korean cars only arrived onto the North American market in small number during the late 1980's but mainly as rebadged products. GM brought in a number of Daewoo models which they rebadged as Chev's and Pontiac's. Chrysler did the same thing only they brought in and rebadged Mitsubishi models.
Korean manufacturers did not enter into the North American and European market in their own right until the mid to late 1990s and like cars from Malaysia, had a terrible reputation across the board. South Korea is an interest case study. Until very recently, South Korea was for the most part a dictatorship not too unlike that which rules North Korea. Main difference was that the South Koreans had a measure of freedom to leave or protest unlike their Northern brethren.
Unlike Japan, South Korea has been wracked with major social upheavals and seeing massive violent protest by either workers or students that are still not uncommon. Much of this upheaval is due in no small part to inherent corruption built within their system. Even though fairly honest multi-party elections are now held, the old political/business guard still holds a lot of control and influence in the country.
Another problem with South Korea in regards to matching the quality of Japanese products has to do with its history. South Korea and Koreans basically hate anything that smacks of Nipponism. This of course has a lot to do with Japans occupation of Korea before and during WWII. When it comes to things such as TQM which is seen to be Japanese, the South Koreans are loath to adopt it. They would basically rather fail then adopt Japanese systems.
Another problem is South Korea's close ties to American businesses such as GM and Ford. Both these two companies have had long standing interests in the South Korean automotive industry and basically designed and managed their production and quality systems.
Given all that, South Korea has made some serious inroads and gains within quality. Their electronics industries are pretty much on par with the rest of the world as are their heavy industries. Their automotive sector is slowly getting there and in shouldn't take too much longer for them to achieve that goals. However, they are taking a lot longer then the Japanese did.
China on the other hand is starting anew. 25 years ago China was still basically an agricultural society and economy with some old fashion heavy industry. In the past 25 years, China has transformed itself into becoming the worlds manufacture of all manner of goods and is currently where Japan was back in the mid to late 70's. Quality is still an issue, especially in the automotive sector and that sector includes motorcycles. However, China like Japan before it is not sitting on its laurels, but is investing heavily into new systems of manufacturing and quality. In time, China will be on par with Japan in regards to quality, she has no other choice if she wants to expand and grow.
Given time and I doubt it will take long, Chinese builders will crack the quality issues and no doubt will start exporting some quality products. Could be interesting.
I highly doubt it. They have made no improvements whatsoever. They seem content on selling cr@p made from their exploited citizens.
Again looking at the Japanese model. For decades up until the early 80's Japan was our main supplier of what you called cr@p. But they evolved their product lines along with improving the the quality of their products. That is a sign of a maturing economy. You start off supplying low end goods at cheap prices in order to gain entry into the market place. Once you established yourself, you expand and grow your markets with better goods. This is what China is currently doing, establishing market dominance and presence by offering us the cheap goods we want and think we need.
I find your use of the term "exploited citizens" interesting and rather telling. First off, every nation, every company and every person on this planet exploits others. To exploit basically means to use and China exploits it citizens the same way Canada, America or the UK exploits theirs, as a means to generate wealth and growth.
Now one of the biggest red herrings I hear about China is its use of slave prison labour. Usually the loudest cries against this practice comes from America and Americans. And yet, America has the worlds largest incarcerated population per capita. That is to say, there more Americans in prison per 100,000 people then anywhere else in the world, including China. And many of those incarcerated Americans work in prison factories or on prison farms earning cents per hour. Basically slave labour if one is honest. And many of American firms take advantage of said labour by signing contacts with various prison authorities for the use of that labour to produce goods to be sold on the open market, often with the "Buy American" tag on them. So before one accuses nations such as China for exploiting their people, one should look around at what is happening at home.
China cannot even steal technologies correctly. Japan launched their first bullet train back in the 1960s and to this date has never had a single accident. China recently launched the bullet train with technologies they carbon copied from the Japanese; and shortly thereafter had their first major derailment and accident. Many people were killed.
The accident you are referring to happened in 2011 when an electrical (lightening) strike caused a train to stall on a bridge. The same strike took out the automated warning system that should of alerted the on-coming Bullet Train, sadly it failed and a collision happened leading to 32 deaths. In 2004 a Japanese Bullet train suffered an accident during an earthquake where 8 out of 10 cars derailed leading to injuries but thankfully no deaths. During the same period the US Amtrak system suffered a number of accidents leading to death and injury. In Canada and Europe as well as Indian there were other rail accidents leading to death and injury.
The Chinese did not steal Japanese technology to built their system but rather bought it under license from a consortium formed of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, and Hitachi, is based on the E2-1000 Series design.
That being said, there are safety issues concerning the Chinese High Speed Train systems and it has come under serious criticism from the Chinese people, such criticism has lead to the dismissal of the Minister in Charge and he is currently under investigation for corruption. And if there is one thing the Chinese Government takes very seriously is corruption among its officals, anything thing that can tar the China Inc brand can earn you the death penalty there.
Mind you that is not just a Chinese point of view, in Singapore if you get fiddling around in business or found to be guilty of corruption, you will be facing a very long term in prison along with the forfeiture of your assets. I believe both Japan and Taiwan have similar systems in place.
HYPERR wrote:In fact, I think a total collapse of the Chinese economy is imminent. To me China is the quintessential smoke and mirror show. It's one thing for Obama to keep printing money, totally another for a country like China. What does China have that backs up all this other than their 1.3 billion exploited citizens?
This I think is little more then wishful thinking on your part borne in no small part of your fear that your nation is at risk at losing its place in the world, that is to say, you are no longer number one.
China actually has a lot to back up its "printing" of money a lot more then the US has to be honest.
First off, China has a strong and growing manufacturing base, something the US has sold off. As long as you can produce hard goods to sell on the market, goods that people want and need then you have the basis of a strong economy.
Secondly, China's potential internal market is almost 10 times that of the combined markets of Canada and the US. Now this is very important. As I said before, China is in the midst of transforming itself from an agricultural based society and economy into an industrialized one. As it does so, its middle class with grow in both size and purchasing power. It will also demand better goods and services, which could be manufactured at home. Surplus production then can be sold on the open world market. Now this will take time and cannot happen over night and we have seen it happen here in the west.
When the industrial revolution started in England in the late 1700's, people left the farms to work in the new mills. As the revolution continued, it gave way to a new middle class which in turn spurred on economic growth at home, that by the mid 1800's internal consumption of England's factory output was greater then its exports. And we saw the same thing happen in the US after the Civil War. There is a lag between the start of industrialization and the maturing of the middle class consumers. China is basically at the bottom end of that curve and its middle class is starting to ascend it fast. Within the next 20 to 40 years, it will be well and truly established and will be a major driving force for the continued economic growth in China. Sadly here in both Canada and the US, the middle class is under attack by a number of forces and is slowly shrinking in both size and purchasing power. Killing off our middle class is akin to committing economic suicide.
Thirdly China is not sitting back and waiting for the world to come to it, instead she is going out and investing overseas in order to secure her supply of raw materials. In my home Province of BC there is a small town called Princeton, about a two and half hour drive from Vancouver. That town once had a mine called Copper Mountain Mine which closed down years ago. Last month it had it reopening ceremony and is again productive, I know because I spend a fair amount of my work day ensuring truck loads of equipment arrive there on schedule. The reason why this old mine reopened was because of direct Chinese investment. They need the copper and are willing to invest where North Americans will not in order to secure that supply. They are also getting heavily invested in the Albertan Oil Sand projects.
And its not just here in Canada, but all around the world. In Brazil, they invested in the development of a new deep water port, in Africa, not only are they opening mines but also investing in and building internal infrastructure such as ports, road, railways and airports. They are also major investors in 3rd world social development and have built and funded numerous schools and hospitals. All in order to secure the good will of their suppliers and continued unfettered access to the raw material they need and want.
And they are doing so without feeling the need to push their own ideological view point onto their partners. US President Calvin Coolidge once said "The business of America is business.", the Chinese have taken that to heart and are running with it. Not only are they opening up new markets for their finished goods, but are developing trading partners to secure raw materials.
At the same time, they are positioning themselves to be the next Great Power in the terms of trade and geopolitical influence. China is open to business with anyone, regardless of their political ideology or even their human rights and environmental record. Now before you lambast them for this, just consider some of the people and regimes we in the west not only did business with, but actively supported and propped up. A few years back, Canadian PM Steven Harper while on a trade visit to China thought it would be a good idea to question their human rights record and trading agreements with "despots" in the media. Basically he sought to embarrass the Chinese leadership in their own home. He got his ears pinned back when the Chinese brought up a few things Harpo would of preferred to have been kept quiet. Basically it was a case, that the pot should never call the kettle black.
Because of all this investment in mines, plants, infrastructure and the like, many developing nations are beginning to look at China as their best bet. At the same time, the west in general and America in particular are being seen more and more as a spent force. And they could well be right about that.
Finally, China is doing all this not by so much as printing money, but rather by spending the US Dollars it gets from selling the Walmarts of the world cheap goods to flog to the ignorant masses and by the money they make by buying up US debt. China has become one of America's leading bankers and holds what amounts to an economic WMD to America's head, and there is nothing you can do about it. Basically because of American greed for cheap goods and because you are addicted to debt, you are financing China's growth at home and abroad. When it comes time to pull the trigger, it will be China left standing strong and firm not the US. Right now it is in China's best interest to continue propping up the US, but for how much longer is anyone's guess. While the US and Americans were investing in paper, the Chinese have been busy investing in bricks and mortar projects.
As for living in a so-called "free capitalist society", it hasn't been working all that great for many of us has it? Europe is in the middle of financial crisis, the US economy is still stalled with the official unemployment rate siting at 9.1%. Sometime I can't help but wonder if the Chinese haven't gotten it right with their odd mixture of Marxism and Capitalism.
Are you kidding me??? I don't know about you but I will happily live in the US, Canada, England, or Japan before I will ever live in a country like China. Even the Chinese want nothing to do with that country. They immigrate to other countries in Asia, Europe, Australia, The Americas, and even Africa in record numbers. Nobody wants anything to do with that country. Ask anybody in Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Tibet.
Yeah the Chinese really got it right.
I live in the Vancouver area of BC, one of the locations of choice for Chinese immigration. If and when I want to visit China, all I have to do is travel thorough the George Messey Tunnel and visit Richmond BC. After Expo 86, the Greater Vancouver area saw a dramatic influx of Chinese immigrants, mainly from Hong Kong. This was before the turn over of Hong Kong back to China by the British. This was a time of uncertainty for many of Hong Kongs Chinese population, and taking advantage as nominal British subjects, immigrated here. However, they did not for the most part surrender their Chinese identity nor nationality. By becoming dual citizens, they were hedging their bets. After the turn over and it was clear to all that the PRC was not going to come down heavy on Hong Kong nor vastly restrict the freedoms its people enjoyed when the Brits were in charge, many of these new immigrants returned back to China in order to take advantage of its economic opportunities. Recently the same thing has been happening with people from Mainland China proper. Economic immigrants coming over here to invest but keeping close ties to the homeland.
You can see this same scene being played out around the world, investor class of Chinese moving into areas, creating businesses and investments locally while maintaining extremely close ties to China. It is not so much as they are escaping China, but rather they are setting up branch offices of China Inc. Sure they come to places like Canada, the UK, the US and Africa, but they are still attached to China. Indeed, I mentioned Richmond BC and I am truly struck by how much it resembles the enclaves we westerns set up in places like China when we ventured out to conquer the world through trade. Even though we were in their lands, we did not truly become "them", but rather maintained our ethnic, cultural and national identities by creating little bits of home in those foreign lands. Richmond BC is a prime example of such enclaves. Yes it is part of BC, but it is in the main Chinese. The majority of people living there are from Hong Kong, Taiwan or the Mainland and the main languages you hear in the streets and in the shopping malls are either Mandarin or Cantonese.
And they bring their kids here to be educated. Go to any university or college in the Vancouver area and take a look at the ethnic background of those studying the arts compared to those studying the sciences. Those in the arts programmes are generally whites who are 3rd or better generation Canadian. Those in the sciences, ie business, computer sciences, medicine, engineering, ect are generally Chinese who are either recent immigrants or are here to study as international students. While many will stay here after they graduate, a large percentage will return to China because of the economic opportunities that exist there and to be blunt, no longer exist in the west.
China Inc is on the move and it is coming to a town near you soon. It will bring investment, it will change our existing social dynamic, it will challenge our place in the world and it will not be stopped. As the British Trade Empire was supplanted by the American Trade Hegemony so too will that be replaced quiet possibly by China Inc, which in turn will be replaced by something else.