Japan then, China now

IN the 1980s, the United States faced an unnerving challenge from a rising economic powerhouse and export dynamo. It was an impressive challenger, to be sure, but one that often bent rules of global competition unfairly to its advantage by handing out financial subsidies to domestic companies, discriminating against foreign suppliers in government contracts, pilfering Western technology and keeping its currency cheap.

President Obama and President Hu Jintao, in background, met with executives last week. China has done more than Japan to invite investment.

Three decades later, Americans are hearing an echo of the past. Yet this time, the object of admiration and angst is not Japan Inc., but China Inc.

“We’ve seen this movie before,” says Clyde V. Prestowitz Jr., president of the Economic Strategy Institute and a former United States trade negotiator with Japan in the 1980s. “Like Japan, China is climbing up the ladder of economic and technological development, and using every means at its disposal to do so.”

China, of course, is different from Japan in the 1980s in many ways — larger, less affluent, ruled by a Communist government and yet in some respects culturally more entrepreneurial. Silicon Valley venture capitalists, for example, have begun setting up offices in China to forge links with entrepreneurs there, as they never really did in Japan.

Read the rest of the story: Maybe Japan Was Just a Warm-Up to the Rivalry With China.

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