Week of December 24, 2015
- The biggest news last week was the agreement between Seoul and Tokyo on the long standing disagreement on Korean comfort women. The deal was, without any doubt brokered by the US administration. Both sides called the agreement “final and irrevocable”, raising hopes that two of Asia’s most important economies can finally overcome a longstanding impediment to constructive relations between them. But as soon as the agreement was signed, South-Korean protests started, while also the Taiwanese and Philippines government raised their hands for a treaty with Japan on this subject. The Financial Times gave an overview of the implications on the region of this agreement between Japan and South-Korea.
- But there are considerable differences with other East Asian neighbours as well: with Russia that occupies four northern islands that it took in 1945. The Japan News thinks the Abe government will try to resolve the disagreement between the two countries in 2016. It is a good read that helps to understand why both countries are still formally at war.
- Then there is territorial disagreement with China on the Senkaku Islands, and here you will read a surprising story how the Japanese try to grow reef on a small atoll in the Philippine Sea to reinforce Okinotorishima. Japan regards the atoll as its southernmost point; China says it is no island, merely a rock (Financial Times).
- It was a good year for investors in Japanese stocks: the Nikkei index ended 2015 at its highest annual closing level in 19 years on Wednesday December 30 (Nikkei).
- And 2016 will not disappoint either, according to the Bank of Japan, at least when it comes to the stimulus generated by the preparations for the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020: they will boost the Japanese economy as much as 30 trillion yen (EUR 235 billion) by 2020. When you visit Tokyo you will notice building activities everywhere (Bloomberg).
- Sadayuki Sakakibara, the head of Japan's top business lobby Keidanren said the government and business sector must work together to achieve 3% nominal economic growth ahead of the consumption tax hike planned for April 2017. For 2015 he predicted a jump in growth, that did not materialise, he admits (Nikkei).
- Japan Inc. has more money in the bank than ever, says the Nikkei: Corporate deposits at domestic banks had surged to 201 trillion yen (EUR1.5 trillion) at the end of October, up more than 8 trillion yen from the start of 2015, Bank of Japan figures show.
- At least part of these deposits wil be used for overseas acquisitions. Great read in the Financial Times on the way Japanese corporate executives see the need for active overseas M&A.
- Shuji Nakamura is the Japanese inventor of the blue light-emitting diode that caused a revolution in light and communication devices, incl. through LiFi. Prof. Nakamura started a court case against his then employer Nichia as he got - in his eyes - a ridiculous bonus for his ground breaking work. The Financial Times has an interview with him that is interesting also for his assessment of Japanese R&D: “Japanese inventiveness is good because Japan is very sincere. If we order some part by making a drawing and sending it to another company, we say you have three months to follow that drawing exactly. Three months later, the part comes back, exactly as we designed it and with no mistakes at all. If I do that in the US, in three months it doesn’t happen. In five to six months it comes back but there will be something wrong. Only in Japan and a couple of other countries do you have this level of reliability. That is why we get Nobel Prizes."
- You will remember the Periodic Table of Elements from your high-school days. No Japanese discovered element in that table, until … Japanese research institution Riken invented recently Element 113. “A national dream comes true”, claims The Japan News.
- Two articles on why the Japanese government’s efforts to promote more women in the work place do not work out well. Foreign Policy claims that the Japanese government rolled back the ambitious target it set on the proportion of senior- level jobs to be held by women. From the original goal of 30 percent by 2020 championed by Abe, the new five-year gender equality program published this month now targets a far more modest 15 percent for the private sector and 7 percent for national government bureaucrats. The Japan Times shows how conservative Japanese academic life is when it comes to supporting women with their careers. That’s sounds Wonky, or in my interpretation: for WOmen No Kind Year in the year of the Monkey!