Since the bursting of Japan’s bubble economy, from 1990 onwards, Japanese multinational companies (MNCs) have faced new competitive challenges and questions about the management practices on which they had built their initial success in global markets. Japanese engagement in the international economy has undergone a number of phases. In the period before the Second World War, Japanese companies learnt from foreign MNCs in trading, shipping, and manufacturing, frequently through strategic alliances, and leveraged their capabilities to succeed in overseas and largely Asian markets. In the immediate post-war decades, during the Japanese ‘economic miracle’, there were notable examples of MNC investment in raw materials and labour intensive production, but both inward and outward foreign direct investment were not significant. Japanese companies achieved leadership in management and technology, in order to support a strategy of export-orientated industrialization. Changes in government policies in the developed economies of the US and Western Europe forced leading Japanese manufacturers to convert themselves into MNCs and to transfer their home-grown capabilities to overseas subsidiaries. The period after 1990 marked declining Japanese competitiveness, and it asked questions about the ability of Japanese MNCs to be more responsive and global in their strategies, organization and capabilities.
- Japan, MNCs, core capabilities, capability transfer, subsidiary management