You've been hearing it all the time recently - the rise of India and China, how the US is losing out to the competition, how the Asian Tigers are where all the action, and profits, are. Oh, and China is manipulating it's currency, and if we just impose anti-dumping tarrifs on Chinese imports, American manufacturing will be A-OK. Well, in line with my recent obsession to learn from history's lessons, I have been reading (ok, only a few pages at a time) Bill Emmott's historic book, 'The Sun Also Sets'. Why historic? Because writing at the height of the Japanese boom, he called for a collapse in the Japanese economy. OK, I haven't gotten to that part, but it amazes me how much alike the Japan story of those days is to India and China today - booming economies, increased consumer spending and the wealth effect, speculative asset bubbles in stocks and real estate ... Oh, and let's not forget Washington politicians accusing the Japanese of manipulating the yen rather than tackling America's self-made problem with trade deficits.
To be sure, there are several differences between the Japan of past and India and China today, not least of which are size and demographics. Nevertheless, the next time you come across a story suggesting you learn Chinese, you may just want to pass.