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Oriental Society

Oriental Society:
Sir Stephen Gomersall, Chief Executive
of Hitachi Europe
and former British Ambassador to Tokyo

Sir Stephen Gomersall, chief executive of Hitachi Europe and ex-Ambassador of the UK to Japan, came to speak to the Oriental Society about diplomacy and business in the land of the rising sun. He started by explaining how much Japan has changed: from an emerging country in the 1960s struggling to make up the economic growth it had lost during the second World War; a high growth country specialised in the heavy industries in the 1970s; one specialised in finance and banking in the 1980s; and finally experiencing a decade of virtually no growth from the 1990s to the new millennium. Now its focus has shifted to new concerns about nuclear energy dependence, environmental protection, its relations with other Asian countries, and a looming aging population.

From the point of view of an individual firm such as Hitachi, Japan’s struggle to achieve any internal growth provides an incentive to seek greener pastures elsewhere. Many traditional Japanese firms which were so averse to dealing with foreigners have become export based and have gone as far as changing their core business strategy to suit foreign markets. Yet this shift towards management, finance and consulting, where markets are much more volatile, may not be compatible with the Japanese work ethic where individuality is frowned upon and employment guaranteed for life.

Arno Albici OS (ASR)

DATE POSTED: 05 February 2010

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