Asia Pacific Business Review [1]


Special Issue:

Japanese Multinational Companies in the Global Economy:

Strategies, Management and Capabilities



Researchers have, quite justifiably, begun the process of investigating multinational companies (MNCs) from developing or transition economies. Yet MNCs from the developed economies will continue, for the foreseeable future, to control a large majority of total foreign direct investment (FDI) assets, and they still enjoy, overall, significant global scope and advantages in technology, brands and management.


In the heyday of Japanese management, in the 1980s, ‘globalization’ was directly associated with ‘Japanization’. Japanese companies with strong competitive capabilities - or, as outlined in Dunning’s eclectic paradigm for FDI, ownership advantages - took the lead in MNC investment. Since 1990, however, Japan has simultaneously faced increasing competitive pressures from other Asian countries and witnessed slow and even negative rates of growth at home. Once responsible for over a fifth of annual global outward FDI flows, Japan more recently accounted for less than 4 per cent. In 1990, Japan’s share of world outward FDI stock had reached a total of 9.7 per cent; then, by 2010, this had fallen to about 4.0 per cent. In 1994, Japan had 19 entries amongst the Top 100 non-financial Transnational Corporations (as outlined in UNCTAD’s World Investment Report), and showed competitive strengths in automobiles (with 3 entries), trading companies (4), electronics and electricals (7), metal making and processing (2), and tyre and rubber (1), alongside the listing of conglomerate business groups (2). Japan, by 2010, had a reduced total of 9 entries, showing a presence amongst the most important multinationals in automobiles (3), trading companies (2), electronics and engineering (3), and, as a result of overseas acquisitions, tobacco (1). The falling away in the numbers of electronics and metal enterprises amongst the biggest global players was especially notable.


Due to its economic difficulties since 1990 and because, arguably, any reform process has been drawn out, there is a tendency to emphasise Japan’s long-term decline from a peak characterised by an ‘economic miracle’ and international leadership in business methods. Yet Japan is the world’s third largest economy, as well as being one of the world’s richest in per capita terms, and it has command of considerable technological and organizational resources. Japan is the world’s 8th largest holder of outward FDI stock (as recorded for 2012), significantly ahead of its major Asian competitors, China, South Korea and Taiwan. It remains the notable Asian exporter of technology, and its MNCs retain a major presence in the developed markets of North America and Europe.


Since the 1990s, Japan’s corporations have been shifting production overseas and their interests have increasingly diverged from those of the Japanese economy. The country’s MNCs had historically relied on their home market and on the resources of their parent companies. Japanese manufacturers found that they had to compete more actively in a global marketplace that demanded capabilities and management approaches not necessarily the same as those needed within Japan. The largest automobile MNCs obtain the majority of their sales from overseas subsidiaries: 64 per cent in the case of Toyota, 81 per cent for Honda, and 78 per cent for Nissan (for 2012). Sony achieved 67 per cent. On the other hand, while the trading company Sumitomo Corporation reached a figure of 47 per cent, the three rivals of Mitsubishi Corporation, Marubeni and Itochu were far behind in the range of 20-30 per cent.


Asia Pacific Business Review is calling for contributions to a special edition on Japanese MNCs, their role in the modern global economy, and their ability to adapt and take advantage of international or regional business trends. The journal welcomes interesting and informative articles on any aspect of this topic, but the following are amongst the issues being considered.


(a)    To what extent have Japanese MNCs adequately adjusted their strategies or business models, since the 1990s, or in response to more recent events? Do they provide useful lessons for developed economy MNCs in general, or for developing economy MNCs in the long-term?

(b)   Have Japanese MNCs been slow to change organisational structures of strong control by the parent company and expatriate managers? Have they failed, comparatively speaking, to develop the capabilities of their subsidiaries? How successfully are they exploiting locational and off-shoring advantages through global value chains?

(c)    To what degree do Japanese MNCs continue to possess competitive advantages in technology, products, operations or management, and how can they increase these specific strengths? How successful have they been at transferring capabilities across national borders, or at utilising the capabilities of their global networks?

(d)   What are the main elements of Japanese MNC human resource management and to what extent are they distinctive? Do these vary globally?

(e)    How effective are Japanese MNCs in managing international strategic alliances, joint ventures, and contracted suppliers and distributors?

(f)    Does the Japanese business system still restrain the emergence of new companies and industries with the potential to replace those demonstrating declining international performance?

(g)   How have changes in Japanese government policy affected the business strategies of MNCs?

(h)   Why, in general, has the Japanese service sector not shown the same levels of international competitiveness and ‘multinational-ity’ as manufacturing? Why, on the other hand, have general trading companies (sogoshosha) been amongst their most successful MNCs (despite comparatively low degrees of ‘multinational-ity’)? In what ways have Japanese trading companies adapted their strategies and business models?

(i)     To what extent does FDI theory help explain the strategies, capabilities and organization of Japanese MNCs? Have Japanese MNCs been a special case?


In the first instance, we are requesting Abstracts by 30th May 2014 and asking that they be sent to Dr Robert Fitzgerald at [log in to unmask].


Abstracts should be a maximum of 500 words, and should include: title, aim or rationale, theory or theories used, methodology (if appropriate), findings, implications, and conclusions.


The editors will review the Abstracts, and, following this process, invitations to submit full papers will be sent by 30th June 2014. Full papers will be due by 1st October 2014.


Full papers will be double blind refereed. Authors must submit their manuscript as a word file via email attachment to Dr Robert Fitzgerald at [log in to unmask].


Please see the Asia Pacific Business Review website for style requirements:




Dr Robert Fitzgerald, Royal Holloway, University of London: [log in to unmask]


Professor Chris Rowley, Cass Business School, City University & HEAD Foundation, Singapore: [log in to unmask]



[1] Indexed and abstracted in: Social Sciences Citation Index; Journal Citation Reports/Social Sciences Edition; Current Contents/Social and Behavioural Science.



[1] Indexed and abstracted in: Social Sciences Citation Index; Journal Citation Reports/Social Sciences Edition; Current Contents/Social and Behavioural Science.

AIB-L is brought to you by the Academy of International Business.
For information:
To post message: [log in to unmask]
For assistance: [log in to unmask]
AIB-L is a moderated list.