Americanization versus Asianization
The American Era
In the immediate postwar
, a large number of Northern European companies—in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and the United Kingdom—felt the need to “Americanize” in order to emulate the forceful and palpably successful business techniques in production, marketing, sales, budgeting, and reporting emanating from the other side of the Atlantic. This trend toward Americanization (initially financed by the Marshall Plan) has to a great extent remained in place and has
its purpose, not only in the decades of
production but also in periods of ubiquitous mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, and delayering.
Americanization of business was not restricted to Europe. In the Asia-Pacific zone, Australia is openly Americanized, while Japan, Korea, and the Philippines were by no means unaffected. Because the most pressing need of people in war-battered
was to quickly raise their living standards to an acceptable level, the Americanization
was most immediately visible in the areas of industry and commerce. Almost unconsciously, however, many Europeans and some Asians, seduced by the success of the United States, permitted certain American notions and values to influence their lifestyles. Some of these were
to dress, sport, language, music, and other forms of entertainment. Other more subtle but
influences were in attitudes toward freedom, societal structure, the role of youth, and the reaction to government. Thus, what was ever more frequently referred to as the “Americanization” of Western Europe had, by the early 1950s, become clearly evident in such countries as Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, and Britain—less so in countries such as Italy, Spain, Greece, and, particularly, France. In the Southern hemisphere, Australia followed the trend. Among Asian countries Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand to some extent embraced elements of American lifestyle with some
The Japanese Model
Since the mid-1980s, however, the four Asian
(Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore) as well as the burgeoning economies of Thailand and Malaysia have substituted
for the United States and Europe as their
industrial role model
. Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and, most importantly, China and India are following suit. China and Vietnam may well be the
What does this mean for the West? The biggest markets of the next quarter of a century—China, India, and
developing Southeast Asia—will be drawn toward people whose business
—marketing, sales, negotiating, reporting, personnel policies—they understand and admire. That is to say, they will conduct business most readily with the Japanese and each other.
Western nations have demonstrated convincingly since World War II, and particularly since the
of the 1990s, that they are ill-equipped to empathize with Asian cultural sensitivity. Cultural barriers at the national level frequently
insurmountable, even irremovable.
At the level of corporate culture, the story is occasionally different. A handful of Western firms—ABB, Nestl, Levi Strauss, AT&T, McDonald’s, and Motorola are among them—have proven that Westerners can adapt to,
, and sell to Asians. Any European or U.S. company wishing to capture Asian markets during the twenty-first century will probably find it advantageous to embark on an Asianization policy, just as so many European firms Americanized their business culture and approach in the 1950s and 1960s.