On Reading the Novel Ni-tchu gassaku (Japan-China Collaboration)

Mr. Kentaro Kutsuzawa, the honorary advisor of Alpine Electronics, kindly sent me a complimentary copy of his novel Ni-tchu gassaku (Japan-China Collaboration), published by Shogakukan.

Mr. Kutsuzawa spent his childhood years in Manchuria, returning to Japan by repatriation ship in 1946 after much hardship. Four decades later, in the fall of 1988, Mr. Kutsuzawa found himself on a train heading for the city of Dandong, where he had spent his youth. His purpose was to carry out a preliminary survey for the transfer of Alpine’s production operations to China.

Mr. Kutsuzawa had aspired to be a literary writer ever since his younger days. Although a serious tome, this novel has a fast and lively style that grips the reader’s attention. “It stands to reason,” Mr. Kutsuzawa writes, “that first of all you begin with places you are familiar with . . .” On the train heading for Dandong, memories flashed through Mr. Kutsuzawa’s mind of his younger days spent in that city and of the repatriation.

When he was a university student, Mr. Kutsuzawa met Mr. Katsutaro Kataoka, the founder and then president of Alps Electric and a person whom Mr. Kutsuzawa respected very much. After graduation Mr. Kutsuzawa joined Alps Electric, where he went on to hold important posts. He then founded Alpine Electronics in 1967. In March 1988 Alpine was listed on the second section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, enabling it to engage in large-scale investment with its sights set on the next decade. That was why, in October of that year, Mr. Kutsuzawa found himself on the train bound for northeastern China. Seeing the plants in Shenyang, Mr. Kutsuzawa was convinced that northeastern China had potential that almost rivaled that of places like Shanghai and Beijing.

On his second day in Shenyang, Mr. Kutsuzawa met Dr. Liu Jiren, the chairman of Neusoft Corporation, which is now the leading software company in China, and a professor at Shenyang’s Northeast University of Technology (then). Partly because of this, and partly also because Dr. Liu hailed from Andong, the two hit it off immediately, and they are still close friends today.

Mr. Kutsuzawa writes, “The basis of business is trustworthy relationships. People who can be trusted are not those with high status but those with character, impartial opinions, and humanity. In that sense, meeting Dr. Liu was one of the most fortuitous encounters in my life. Dr. Liu’s abilities as a researcher and an engineer are undeniable, but he also possesses exceptional charisma brimming with a spirit of challenge. Moreover, his impartial appointment of people who have the same integrity, enthusiasm, and philosophy as him brings out the zeal and trustworthiness of his employees.” He concludes, “My own code of conduct is creativity, enthusiasm, and challenge, so I cannot help but feel empathy with Dr. Liu.”

The novel Ni-tchu gassaku combines the personal history of Dr. Liu, who developed his own company into China’s number-one software enterprise on the basis of trust, and the personal history of Mr. Kutsuzawa himself. And it teaches us that trust goes beyond national borders. In 2002 Mr. Kutsuzawa received the State Friendship Award from the government of China.

Although it is a long novel of 300 pages, I was completely absorbed by the story, and I wrote this article in order to introduce the work and share my feelings with the readers of this magazine. (I asked Mr. Kutsuzawa to write a series for Senka21 starting from the next issue, and he kindly agreed. Enjoy!)

Ni-tchu gassaku (Japan-China Collaboration)
---The Story of the Birth of China痴 Leading Software Company---
By Kentaro Kutsuzawa
Published by Shogakukan Square