For hundreds of years, Asia has exercised an incredibly powerful influence on the West. The ancient religions, philosophies, and martial arts of China and Japan have long fascinated many Westerners. Exhibits of Asian porcelain, carpets, manuscripts, and other arts and crafts have drawn huge crowds to Western art galleries. More recently, Asia has exerted an economic influence on Western life by bringing about a change in the buying habits of Western consumers. For example, Asian-made radios, computers, cameras, video equipment, and automobiles, by and large, have dominated world markets over the past decade. Further, many “Western-made” appliances were indeed constructed in the West-but from Asian components. This economic competition from Asia has both alarmed and intrigued Western business leaders.
Since the late 1970s, Western economists have traveled throughout Japan, trying to discover why Japanese goods compete so well in world markets. Many economists have suggested that the answer lies in the cooperative relationship between management and workers. Others have noted that government assistance and low-interest business development loans enable Japanese companies to buy the latest machinery.
Still others have pointed out that the Japanese educational system emphasizes the study of science and math. This focus has helped produce a force of scientists and engineers who have been able to develop better, more competitive products. Whatever the answer, most American business schools have deemed that the Japanese approach to management is worthy of extensive study. Asian thought has also influenced the West, especially since the end of World War II. For example, Mohandas Gandhi’s ideas about nonviolent resistance had a powerful impact on the leaders of the civil rights movement in the United States duringthe1960s.
At one time, many people believed that because of the significant cultural differences between East and West, mutual understanding was all but impossible. Asians would never understand western society, nor would Westerners ever comprehend the ways of Asian society. However, in the 1980s and 1990s, greater understanding has developed. This understanding certainly will continue to improve as Pacific economic powers such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan play an even greater role in the world economy.