Eamonn Fingleton

Eamonn Fingleton is a Tokyo-based author whose most recent book is In Praise of Hard
Industries: Why Manufacturing, Not the Information Economy, Is the Key to Future
Prosperity
.

Recent Articles

Germany's Economic Engine

For years, economists said Germany was doing everything wrong. But today it's thriving, even in the wake of the global financial crisis.

(AP Photo/Matthias Rietschel)
Editors' Note: This piece has been corrected . American and British commentators have told three stories about the German economy over the past decade, all of them derogatory. Articulating a standard conservative view, Adam Posen of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in 2006 characterized Germany's performance as "lastingly poor." In a similar vein, Jude Blanchette, blogging for the libertarian Mises Institute, predicted in 2003 that nothing but "rot and indolence" lay ahead. Another version of the indictment states that even though Germany was once an economic powerhouse, its best days are over. Thus in 2003, Larry Elliott of The Guardian reported that the German economy had "sputtered to a virtual halt" and, in the view of many, had succeeded to Britain's 1970s-era role as the "sick man of Europe." A third story holds that, to the extent Germany is surviving at all, it is only by giving up the distinctive elements of its economic model and embracing American norms...

Who Glossed China?

After the economist Nicholas Lardy visited China in the mid-1980s, he came away distinctly skeptical. While Chinese leaders were gearing up for a huge export drive, Lardy predicted “a marked slowing in China's trade expansion in the years ahead.” In particular he questioned Beijing's reported plan to boost total Chinese trade (imports plus exports) to more than $200 billion by 2000. In a monograph published by the Asia Society in 1987, China's Entry into the World Economy , Lardy suggested the target was implausibly high. In the event, Chinese policy-makers far exceeded their goal. China's exports alone in 2000 came to $249 billion and its imports came to $225 billion, making a grand total of $474 billion, more than double the ambitious target. Economists' predictions are often wrong, of course, not least about East Asia. But Lardy's errors are systematic. For two decades he has almost invariably undershot in predicting China's economic trajectory. Yet, despite these mistakes, Lardy...

Innocents (Not) Abroad

The size of the trade deficit with China is one of the hottest potatoes in American economic policy these days. It is about to get a little hotter, thanks to Beijing's highly provocative, if hitherto largely overlooked, controls on outbound tourism. In theory the United States should be a major beneficiary -- perhaps the major beneficiary -- of a recent trend for Chinese tourists to travel abroad. In practice, however, the United States ranks low on the list of Chinese tourist destinations. On the most recent figures available, it received only one-quarter as many Chinese tourists as, for instance, Italy. Of the 49.4 million foreigners admitted to the United States in 2005 on all non-immigrant visas, nearly 300,000 came from China. By comparison 383,400 came from tiny Ireland and about 319,000 from Taiwan, countries that boast respectively 0.3 percent and 1.7 percent of mainland China's population. Clearly there are cultural and economic reasons for the differential. But it is Chinese...

Life After Wartime

In all the public bickering recently between Japan and China, one fact has received remarkably little attention: Japan's continuing refusal to pay compensation to victims of its militarist-era brutality. Ever since Japan surrendered in August 1945, one of the Japanese government's key policy objectives has been to slough off all such compensation claims. Japanese officials seem never to have discussed their argument against compensation publicly, but it would appear to amount to no more than the sotto voce invocation of the old saw that all's fair in love and war. Any defense lawyer taking Japan's case would no doubt argue that there was a distinction in principle between Japan's atrocities and Germany's program of mass extermination of the Jews and other minorities. (For the most part, Japan's atrocities were committed in the general pursuit of war, though this defense can hardly do much to excuse, for instance, the massacre at Nanking in 1937 or the truly gruesome activities of Unit...

Sun Still Rising

For those who claim to understand the global economy, here's a pertinent question: Which East Asian economic powerhouse recently announced the largest current-account surplus in world history? The answer is Japan, although very few readers of the American press are likely to have noticed. Given the continuing media obsession with China, little news about East Asia's other giant economy makes it into print or onto television these days. Yet in most of the ways that matter to current U.S. economic policy, Japan remains far more important than China. To be sure, China is growing very fast. But misinformed American commentary to the contrary, China remains many years away from displacing Japan as Asia's largest economy. Still less is China any sort of benchmark against which a high-wage economy like the United States should be measuring itself. Japan, by contrast, is a useful benchmark. One important fact ignored by the American media is that Japanese industrial wages are now among the...

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