Keywords: competitiveness, industrial policy, Japan, technology imports, technology policy, technology transfer
Japan's technology-import policies in the 1950s and 1960s: did they increase industrial competitiveness?
There is growing scepticism about the value of government technology-import policies. The collapse of the command economies in Russia and Eastern Europe has given new weight to the opinions of those arguing for the superiority of unobstructed markets. The lack of conspicuous success in countries trying to regulate technology imports has also contributed to the scepticism. A number of authors have suggested that even Japan, once the pervasive model for successful technology policy, was successful in spite of these policies, not because of them. This paper seeks to adjust this emerging conventional wisdom. It refutes much of the evidence suggesting that the Japanese policies failed, but notes that those seeking to use a Japanese model may not have had a complete understanding of the Japanese policies and why they worked. It describes this model in some detail. The paper also points out that the Japanese policies were suited to a specific context that had some unusual features. This context needs careful consideration by those seeking to use the Japanese model.