Japanese values and attitudes
By Steven Schlossstein.
537 pp. New York:
Congdon & Weed. $22.95.
Does America have to be No. 1? This is a question frequently asked in the current debate on the economic decline of the United States. In ''The End of the American Century, '' Steven Schlossstein minces no words in answering. The United States must reinvigorate the Pax Americana, he emphasizes, because the alternatives are either chaos or a Pax Nipponica that is likely to be very unattractive to the United States and the rest of the world.
In explaining why, Mr. Schlossstein argues that Japanese dominance will be dangerous because many Japanese assert values that are diametrically opposed to those of most Americans. While we advocate freedom, equal rights and justice, the Japanese are governed by hierarchy, loyalty, conformity, duty and obedience. Moreover, he argues, the Japanese are obsessed with their own homogeneity, and as an example he cites former Prime Minister Yoshiro Nakasone's comments that Japanese education is superior to America's because Japan is not troubled with minorities. The combination of this emphasis on ethnic purity and other Japanese values, Mr. Schlossstein asserts, leads to totalitarianism and is dangerously close to racism. This is why none of Japan's Asian neighbors want it to gain hegemony and why, the author concludes, it is imperative that the United States not let it happen.
Before reaching this conclusion, Mr. Schlossstein takes the reader on an elaborate tour of Asia and explains in great detail the causes of American decline by contrasting the failure of our methods in key business areas with the success of Asian approaches. Japan and its clones - the so-called four tigers (South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore) - pursue strategic economies instead of free markets and free trade. Here Mr. Schlossstein, the author of ''Trade War'' and other books, makes a telling point when he notes the futility of our devaluation of the dollar in the face of economic decision-making that is largely unrelated to prices.