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It should be noted here that the "experts" in the mercury poisoning cases denied, on the basis of data from oversimplified laboratory experiments, any causal relationship between the probable sources of the pollution and the illness of the victims. Even when they were unable to deny the facts any longer, these "experts" aligned themselves with those responsible for the pollution in minimizing the harm. Political parties and labour unions failed to act effectively for the relief of the victims, and in the end, only unrelenting protest and demands for respect for human rights by the victims proved effective.

If primary industry was a victim of the heavy and chemical industries in the period of recovery, it was the creator of victims in the period of rapid economic growth. Heavy and constant applications of chemical fertilizers polluted the soil and water, and agricultural chemicals made the users both victim and the source of pollution. In addition, farming based on mechanization and chemical fertilizers caused a rapid decrease in the fertility of the soil, which in turn required more fertilizer to make up for the loss; in sum, a vicious cycle that prompted many people to forecast gloomy times for the agriculture industry and for the food economy of Japan, which was already dangerously far from being self-sufficient.

Some scholars look to genetic engineering and say that new fertilizer-free crop varieties may and should be mass-produced. Not all people, however, are optimistic about attempts to solve agricultural and ecological problems through engineering. Indeed, the pollution problems have made people increasingly sceptical about the nineteenth-century notion that what is born of science and technology can be remedied by new science and technology: the problems have, in fact, made scientists and technologists even less self-confident. Although many scientists, especially those in the United States, are unwilling to recognize ecology as a science on the grounds that it lacks objectivity and cannot be quantified, it is now the object of a great deal of attention. Science and technology began to be openly questioned in the 1970s, and the century-old philosophy of modern science is now being critically re-examined.

Keeping this in mind, let us refer to tables 1 and 2, which present the Japanese government's view of future prospects for Japanese technological development in comparison with the industrialized West. Table 2 includes findings from a survey of Japan's neighboring countries in regard to technological development. From table 2 it is apparent that the Asian countries have developed their light, labour-intensive industries at an extremely rapid pace. Although for the time being these industries can be supported by domestic demand, eventually they must depend on export markets for their products, and their international competitiveness will greatly depend on an acquisition of high-level skills.

The long time needed traditionally to acquire skills is now being remarkably shortened by the introduction of new and efficient machinery. Industries whose raw material requirements are met domestically can remain internationally competitive through the introduction of new machines and technology. On the other hand, labor-intensive industries that depend on imported raw materials will quickly lose their international positions. As the introduced technologies become obsolete, the value of technology will come to depend on the locations of either resources or markets, and the advantage of cheap labour might be lost. Thus, it is very likely that developing countries will need to creatively reorganize their markets.

Table 1. Levels of technology and potential for its development in Japanese industries in comparison with the United States and Europe (1978: actual; 1985,1990: estimates) (Japan is: Q = Higher; O = Comparable; D = Lower)

 

 

Industry

1978

1985

1990

Level

Development potential

Level

Development potential

Level

Development potential

US Europe US Europe US Europe US Europe US Europe US Europe
Textiles Synthetic fibre O O D O O O O O - - - -
Spinning O O O O O O - - - - - -
Weaving D D D D D D D D - - - -
Apparel D D D D O O O O - - - -
General printing O O O O O O O O Q Q O O
Paper, pulp D O D O D O D O - - - -
Cement O O O O O O O O O O O O
Packing D D O O O O O O O O O O
Daily necessities O O O O O O O O O O O O
Flat glass O O O O O O O O O O O O
Fine ceramics (electro magnetic, biochemical, optional functions) O O O O D O D O O O D O
Fine ceramics (mechanical, thermal, chemical functions) D O D O D O D O O O O O
Chemical Chemical fertilizers O O O O O O O O D O D O
Petrochemicals O O O O O O O O O O O O
Fine chemicals O O D D O O O O O O O O
Light alloy rolling D O D O O O O O O O O O
Aluminium refining D O D O O O O O - - - -
Non-ferrous metals O O O O O O O O O O O O
Ferro-alloys O O O O O O O O O O O O
Iron and steel Pig manufacturing O O O O Q Q O O O O Q Q
Steel manufacturing Q Q O O Q Q O O - - - -
Rolling Q Q - - Q Q O O O O O O
Special steel O O O O O O O O O O O O
Surface-treated steel plate O - O - O - O - O - O -
Steel pipe O O O O O O O O O - - -
Oil refining O O D O O O D O Q Q O O
Coal Production O O D O - - - - - - - -
Use O O D O - - - - - - - -
Crude oil, natural gas D O D O O O O O - - - -
Non-metal, non-ferrous mining - - D - - - D - - - D -
Gravel - D - - - - - - - - - -
Thermal-power generation O O D O O O O O O O O O
Electricity Hydraulic-power generation O O O O O O O O O O O O
Transmission O O O O O O O O O O O O
Gas O - O - O - O - O - O -
General machinery Chemicals O O D O D D D D D D D D
Large showcases O - D - O - O - O - O -
Food processing (meat) D D D D D O D O D O D O
Food processing (cereals) O D O O O O O D O D - -
Packing O O O O O O O O O O O O
Metal working O O O O O O O O O O O O
Business D O D O D O D O - - - -
Printing O O O - O - O - O - O -
Forging and compressing O O D O O O O O - - - -
Sectioned materials O O D D O O O O O O O O
Textiles O O O O O O O O O O O O
Construction O O D O O O D O O O D O
Agricultural O O O O O O O O O O O O
Freezing and air conditioning D - D - O - - - O - O -
Export and engineering of plants D O D D O O D O O O O O
Atomic energy(light water reactor) D O D O D O D O O O O O
Electric machinery Electrical equipment (for medical use) D O D O O O D O O O O O
Electrical guages D O D O D O D O D O D O
Electrical materials O O O O O O O O O O O O
Semiconductors and ICs D O D O O O O O O O O O
General electronic parts D O D O D O D O D O D O
Household electric appliances O O O O O O O O O O O O
Micro computers O O O O O O O O O O O O
Information processing (software) D - - - O - - - O - - -
Power generators O O D O O O O O O O O O
Lasers D O D O D O D O O O O O
Data bases D O D O D O D O - - - -
Computers D O D O D O O O O O O O
Aeroplanes D D D D D D D D D O D O
Automobiles O O D O O O D O - - - -
Cameras and other optical applicances O O O O O O O O O O O O
Other Ocean development D D D D - - - - - - - -
Housing O O O O - - - - - - - -
Atomic-energy industry O O D O - - - - - - - -
Social system (medical information system) D O O O D O O O - - - -
Social system (audio visual daily information system) D O O O D O O O - - - -

 

Source: Institute of Industrial Technology, Ministry of race and Industry. Sz-teki gijutsu rikkoku o mezashite (Toward self-reliance in technology) (Tokyo, Government Printer. 1981), pp. 72-79.

Table 2. Levels of technological development of Asian countries (1978)

Manufactured good

Thailand

Indochina

Philippines

Malaysia

Singapore

Hong Kong

Taiwan

R. of Korea

Atomic energy equipment 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2
Washing machines 1 1 1 1 2 3 4 4
Refrigerators 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 4
Lighting equipment 2 2 2 2 2 3 4 4
Communications equipment 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2
Radios 3 3 3 3 3 4 4 4
Televisions 2 2 2 2 3 3 4 4
Computers 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Electrical instruments 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 2
Resistors, condensers 1 1 1 1 2 2 3 3
Semiconductors 1 1 1 1 2 3 3 3
Batteries 3 3 3 3 - 4 3 4
Cars 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 3
Buses, trucks 1 1 2 1 1 1 2 3
Car parts 2 1 2 1 1 1 2 3
Motor cycles 1 1 1 1 - - 3  
Bicycles 1 - - - - - 3 3
Railway cars 1 1 1 1 1 1 3 3
Shipbuilding 1 1 1 3 1 3 3  
Aeroplanes - - - - - - 1 1
Cameras 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 2
Boilers 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2
Power shovels 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2
Valves 2 2 2 2 2 1 3 3
Tanks 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 3
Bearings - - - - - - - 1
Pumps 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 3
Waste-water disposal equipment 1 1 2 2 3 3 3 3
Agricultural machinery 2 2 2 2 2 1 3 3
Lathes 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2
Textile machinery 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 3
Sewing machines (for home use) 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2
Desk calculators - - - 2 3 3 3 3
Electronic registers 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 3
Integrating watt meters - - - - - - 3 3
Wrist-watches 1 1 1 1 2 3 2 2
Lighters - - - 2 - - - -
Generators 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 3
Motors 1 1 1 1 2 4 3 3
Transformers 1 1 1 1 2 1 3 3


Notes: 1a. Figures 1, 2, 3, and 4 denote, respectively, that it would take "more than 10 years to catch up with Japan." "5-10 years," "less than 5 years," and "already comparable with Japan."

b. Enterprises covered here include those of native capital and joint ventures with advanced industrialized countries. For those items of which appraisals varied widely, figures are based on the majority of answers received.

c. Sixty-five Japanese manufacturers operating in Asian countries were interviewed about the 40 items shown in this table.

2. I would make no comment on this survey except to point out that it was conducted before the second oil crisis. The situation has changed. especially after 1985, because of the decline of the US dollar. Technology transfers were carried out in these countries on an unprecedented scale, which pushed up their position in the world.

Source: Nihon Keizai Shimbun Sha, Asu no raibaru - Oiageru Ajia no kikai kgy (Tomorrow's rival: The Asian machine manufacturing industry in pursuit) (Tokyo, Nihon Keizai Shimbun Sha. 1978).

Since technological innovation usually reduces employment, it is important that new markets be developed to absorb increased productivity. Second the labour saved through innovation should be absorbed in the same branch of technology. which would require a new investment capacity.

A situation where investment is made for technological innovation and there is still capacity to invest is a typical picture of prosperity, a phase in which each investment calls for another. This situation, rarely seen, was experienced by Japan only in the period of rapid economic growth.

Such prosperity brings on inflation. which widens the gaps in the rates of growth between enterprises and industries. Gaps of this kind can pave the way for technological and managerial dualism, even on an international scope. In countries where social integration is not sufficiently high and a national consensus on the goals and means of development are lacking, political and social disorder and unrest may arise, which might paralyse technology and even bring on the loss of capital and technology. Consequently, countries responsible for their own development should be prepared to proceed carefully with technological innovation and should seek effective international co-operation.


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