Chinese ‘miracle’ invokes shades of Japan


By George Kerevan  [First Published Sat 6th October]
WHENEVER I hear prophecies that China will eclipse America and dominate the global economy of the 21st century, I have only one word to say: Japan.

Once upon a time (ie the 1970s), Japan was feted as the coming economic superpower. But this week’s annual Best Global Brands list, by the Interbrand consultancy, had only one Japanese firm in the top 20 – carmaker Toyota. Gone are the likes of Sony and Sharp.

Last week Sharp negotiated a £3 billion bail-out from its banks, to avoid immediate insolvency. This week, Sony commandeered a Tokyo electronics trade fair to try and re-launch itself after four consecutive years of losses.

For a decade Sony’s trademark Panasonic televisions have been loosing money, while the firm has failed to capitalise on the burgeoning mobile market dominated by Apple and Sony’s Korean arch rival, Samsung.

In fact, Samsung has just reported a third-quarter profit of £4.5bn and should clock up £15bn plus for the year on the success of its Galaxy smart phones.

The difference between Samsung and Sony is that the Korean firm has poured money into product innovation and marketing.

Despite the success of its Galaxy mobile phone, Samsung is launching a new phone-tablet hybrid in America this month, and has a mobile ready for market that runs on Microsoft Window’s to challenge Nokia’s Lumina phone. Can Samsung do no wrong? Two-thirds of its profits come from the fickle handset market. As the eclipse of the once mighty Nokia shows, technology can change overnight, and consumer taste with it.

Blanchflower could shake up the Bank

YOU have until Monday at 8:30 am to apply for the job of Governor of the Bank of England, to replace Sir Mervyn King who retires in June 2013. The successful candidate must inspire “confidence and credibility.

The thing that sticks out from all the media gossip about prospective nominees for the post is the narrow pool of talent available. There aren’t a lot of names to choose from except elderly City grandees or insiders tainted by the Bank’s failure to spot the credit bubble. The leading contenders are King’s number two, Paul Tucker; and Lord Adair Turner of the Financial Services Authority, for whom the word “Establishment” was coined.

So let me think out of the box. Choosing a non-banker to run the Fed (Ben Bernanke) has worked well, so why not a tough-minded economist who won’t bow down to Treasury pressure as did King. Can I suggest David Blanchflower, formerly a member of the Bank’s monetary policy committee, and always willing to say boo to King? Sadly, Blanchflower (safely back in academia) says no sane person would touch the job.

Exploding tapioca is explanation for success

SPEAKING of iconic brands, Samsung came ninth in the Best Global Brands list, up from 17th last year. Why have Korean firms grabbed the global consumer imagination while Japanese firms have lost their mojo?

South Korea is a small nation on the opposite side of a land border from its mad, nuclear-totting sibling. It lives for the moment and invests heavily in education and new kicks. I was once induced into a Korean café that sold a frozen drink composed of exploding tapioca. You have been warned.

Courtesy of George Kerevan and the Scotsman newspaper