Japan's politicians, business people, economists and media agree that rapid internationalization is crucial compensate for the country's ageing, shrinking domestic market. At the same time, many blame Japan for closing its markets to foreign companies. Sparked particularly by a — partly perceived, partly real — wagon circling strategy of Japanese businesses against unsolicited takeovers and activist shareholders, there is a growing sentiment that Japan is inward-looking and unwelcoming to international capital. By contrast, Japanese firms have massively stepped up their investments in foreign markets, with US$78 billion worth of acquisitions of foreign companies in 2008 alone. This is a number of times over what foreign businesses invest in Japan. Hence it seems that Japan pursues a lopsided internationalization strategy — keeping foreign companies out while at the same time investing massively in foreign markets. We will discuss whether this is an appropriate position.
Dr. Stefan Lippert is a management consultant and business school professor. He teaches MBA and executive classes at Temple University Japan and other business schools in Japan and Korea. He is also the Japan/Korea Representative of the European School of Management and Technology CS in Berlin. In his consulting work, Stefan advises Japanese and international companies primarily on globalization strategies. He was the Managing Partner Japan of Simon-Kucher & Partners, a global strategy & marketing consulting firm. Prior to joining Simon-Kucher, Stefan worked with McKinsey & Company. He studied, researched and taught in Germany, Austria, Japan (Waseda School of Commerce) and the U.S. (Harvard Law School).