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close this bookTechnological Independence The Asian experience (UNU, 1994, 372 pages)
close this folder7. The lessons from Asia: From past experience to the future
View the document(introductory text...)
View the documentChina
View the documentIndia
View the documentRepublic of Korea
View the documentThailand
View the documentPhilippines
View the documentJapan
View the documentThe geopolitical environment and the local socio-economic situation
View the documentFormal S&T structure and industry
View the documentThe rural-urban relationship
View the documentInformal and formal sectors
View the documentNew generic technologies
View the documentSocial shaping of technology
View the documentConscious shaping of the technology
View the documentExisting agendas for shaping technology
View the documentConcluding remarks
View the documentNotes


Of the countries studied in this research, Japan is the one that in a period of 100 years has made a successful transformation to the most advanced technological status. The parallels and contrasts with the other countries are therefore very instructive. Japan consciously opened up to the external world after the Meiji Restoration, and this step was taken only after considerable internal debate and a conscious awareness of, and control over, the process of opening up.5 Thereafter Japan absorbed science and technology with the same zeal that she had shown in earlier centuries in imbibing mainland Asian influences such as Confucianism and Buddhism.

In this process, she passed through four stages: pure imitation (from the mid-1800s to the end of the nineteenth century); higher industrialization, adapting technology to local conditions (from the beginning of the twentieth century to the end of the Second World War); catching up with advanced technology (from the Second World War to the early 1970s); and from "imitation to creation" (from the early 1970s to the present).

In the first period, Japan was dependent solely on foreign personnel for S&T guidance. The teachers in higher S&T institutions were almost all foreigners, who were replaced gradually by locals.

At a later period, the government brought academics and businessmen together to form research councils in various fields. And this industry-academic partnership helped actively in the mastery of science and technology.

Again, during the third period of catching up with advanced technology, the importation of foreign technology was strongly encouraged, as importation reduced the commercial risks and uncertainties of newly created technologies. This allowed Japan to make rapid advances in the newer technology. These imports were under strong governmental guidance with regard to their effects on the international balance of payments as well as their technology composition.

In the fourth and final stage, that of creative technology, a high level of R&D expenditure has put Japan on a par with the US.

According to the study, the reasons for Japan's capacity for technology mastery include its high educational standard at the beginning of industrialization, its entrepreneurial spirit, its willingness to learn new technologies and to abandon old ones, the dual structure of Japanese industry, and the guidance given to small companies by large ones. In addition, other contextual factors led to Japanese self-reliance, such as the country's high savings and investment level, and a nationalism which initially did not encourage foreign capital, though money was temporarily borrowed from abroad.

The Japanese example reveals the success of a carefully nurtured pragmatic technology policy, introduced to meet the country's own felt needs, as perceived through its own culture. In fact, the Japanese study team recommends for other developing countries the use of resourceful professionals who have been recruited from locals and are fully imbued with the country's culture. The team emphasizes that only professionals firmly rooted in these national fundamentals can make the required flexible responses in the acquisition of foreign technology.