Americans collectively wrung their hands when Matsushita bought MCA, seeing in the purchase yet another sign that the Japanese are turning the United States into a bargain basement.

But look on the bright side. At least we don't work for the Soviet space program.When the manned Soyuz TM-11 rocket soared into space the other day, a Japanese television reporter was aboard. His network had paid handsomely for his berth (it's part of a ratings war with a rival network).

The rocket was Soviet-made, but you couldn't tell from looking at it. On its side, Scripps Howard News Service reports, was painted the Japanese rising sun. Up and down its barrel were the logos for a Japanese pharmaceutical company and a Japanese maker of sanitary napkins.

The Soviet cosmonauts wore T-shirts sporting the logos of other companies - Japanese companies. The launch pad was covered with billboards advertising Minolta cameras and electronic audio equipment - Japanese equipment.

A day earlier, America's space shuttle Columbia lifted off, gleaming white, with only the stars and stripes for decoration.

So dry those eyes, Japan-bashers. Things could be much worse.