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China's consumption blues

Updated : 19.08.2016 / Category Sentaku in The Japan Times

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China has for the past several years been trying desperately to shift the driving force of its economy from investments in infrastructure and real estate to personal consumption in line with President Xi Jingping's call for "new normal." In reality, however, consumption is sluggish as there is no sign of an economic recovery, income levels are not rising, the number of children is falling and the overall population is aging rapidly.

The government's recent announcement to abolish the one-child policy, in place since around 1980, is aimed more at stimulating domestic consumption than at turning around the undesirable population demographics.

Collusion between Japan Post Holdings and internal press club raising eyebrows

Updated : 17.08.2016 / Category Capsule

Recently, suspicions have been mounting over perceived cozy ties between the mass media and Japan Post Holdings Co. Ltd, which joined the ranks of private enterprise in the autumn 2015 stock exchange listing.

The issue centers around the Japan Post Holdings Press Club, which is situated within the group's headquarters. Though press clubs are a feature of government offices, political parties and industry associations, they are not usually found within the private sector. However, presidential press conferences and various media-focused announcements are ongoing features of the Japan Post Holdings Press Club.

Chinese Foreign Minister undermining
Japan-China relations

Updated : 15.08.2016 / Category Diplomacy

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During a 2006 visit to China by then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo and Beijing agreed to foster a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests." Over time, however, this noble ideal has largely eroded, due to such issues as China's incursions into Japanese territorial waters and its stance over historical matters. But there are other factors at play, too.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who works at the forefront of China-Japan relations, has unnecessarily complicated the ties between the two countries. In short, Wang has fueled anti-Japanese sentiment among the Chinese public and leveraged this disaffection to serve his own interests.

Wang, a former Chinese ambassador to Japan, is well-versed in Japanese affairs. However, because he does not wish to be seen as pro-Japanese, he tends to push excessively in the opposite direction. In short, Wang is a yes-man keen to keep his superiors happy—and he controls China's foreign policy vis-à-vis Japan.

FSA casting critical eye over hybrid securities sold by BTMU, others

Updated : 12.08.2016 / Category Capsule

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Speculation is growing that the Financial Services Agency (FSA) may widen its regulatory net to include other financial products in its ongoing tussle with banks and securities firms over fee disclosure for savings-based insurance products.

If this comes to pass, the FSA's first target would likely be the "hybrid securities fund" investment trusts offered by the banks and securities firms. A high-ranking official at the FSA has already mentioned the product as a target, according to multiple industry sources.

FSA finally taking action over Aeon Bank

Updated : 10.08.2016 / Category Capsule

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The Financial Services Agency has finally lumbered into action and is investigating Aeon Bank over undisclosed allegations. The move is widely believed to be related to possible excess charges when using credit cards issued by the bank.

On July 11, the FSA added Aeon Bank and its holding company, Aeon Financial Service Co., to the list of financial institutions it is monitoring. "This indicates the FSA or local finance bureaus have started investigating these institutions," said a reporter in charge of covering the FSA. The list is published in Japanese on the website of the FSA, Japan's main financial watchdog.

Speculation mounts over merger between struggling Japan Post, Sagawa Express

Updated : 08.08.2016 / Category Capsule

Japan Post Group is reportedly considering a merger between its home delivery business and Sagawa Express Co., the core operating company of SG Holdings Group, as it seeks to deliver better results.

Both companies apparently are anxious about their profitability deteriorating further if they battle on alone amid severe driver shortages and intensifying price competition in the online shopping market.

Shares of Japan Post Holdings made a strong start after they were listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in November 2015. However, the weak profitability of Japan Post Co., the subsidiary that handles mail and home delivery operations and over-the-counter business at post offices, spurred bearish sentiment that has caused the stock price to stay stubbornly below its offering price.

Simmering internal discord plaguing FCCJ

Updated : 05.08.2016 / Category Capsule

Internal discord at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan continues to simmer.

The friction started with the club's decision in 2012 to switch to "koeki shadan hojin" or non-profit, public-interest status. According to sources within the club, the decision was made with "little debate and more out of a sense of rivalry" with organizations such as the Japan National Press Club, which in 2011 changed its status to "koeki shadan hojin."

The FCCJ's decision meant that business income from profit-making activities must account for 50 percent or less of the club's entire revenue. At the time, the club directly operated restaurants within its premises in Yurakucho in central Tokyo. These restaurants provided about 70 percent of the FCCJ's revenue, which became the biggest obstacle to changing the club's status. In 2014, the club's then executives decided to outsource the club's food and beverage operations. However, this required laying off many employees, who took their case to court and claimed their dismissal was invalid.

Echoes of history in battle over planned Idemitsu merger

Updated : 03.08.2016 / Category Economy

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Hoshina Masayuki (1611-1673), founder of what later became the Aizu-Matsudaira clan, established 15 tenets for the Aizu domain, starting with correct moral values for regional samurai. Article 1 of the tenets can be translated as follows: "The Aizu domain must be absolutely loyal to the Tokugawa shogunate. If a lord attempts to usurp this ideal, vassals must admonish and stop the lord—even if he be a descendant of the founder—though it may spell death for such subordinates.

Such precepts, inducing feudal barons to exercise self-control and vassals to embrace self-sacrifice, eventually led to the domain's tragic defeat in the Battle of Aizu, which unfolded during the early part of the Meiji Restoration (1868). The spirits ingrained in the tenets, however, typify stoic samurai discipline, and even today, somewhat reflect Japanese philosophy regarding family, the state—and even modern corporate management.

In recent months, an intra-corporate feud redolent of the tense relationship between lord and vassals has erupted at Idemitsu Kosan Co. Ltd., Japan's second-largest oil wholesaler. It has been widely reported that the founding family, which holds 34 percent of the company's shares (with voting rights), oppose a managerial plan to merge Idemitsu with Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K., the nation's fifth-largest oil wholesaler.

The intention behind China's unrestrained naval moves

Updated : 02.08.2016 / Category Sentaku in The Japan Times

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China is no longer making a secret of its ambition to gain dominance over the western Pacific as it sends its warships into Japanese territorial waters and contiguous zones. Behind these actions lies Beijing's cunning calculation of the international community's reactions.

When a Chinese naval vessel recently invaded Japanese territorial waters near Kuchinoerabu Island in Kagoshima Prefecture, Beijing insisted that the area constituted an "international strait" through which any ship can pass—thus resorting to a "legal warfare" for the first time.

With Japan unable to make a rebuttal, China's propaganda could very well impact global public opinion.

Motor maker Nidec on a roll, but major speed bumps lie ahead

Updated : 01.08.2016 / Category Economy

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At the general shareholders meeting held at a luxurious Kyoto hotel on June 17, Nidec Corp. Chairman and President Shigenobu Nagamori was in a typically bullish mood.

"People who sell our shares now are crazy," he told the attendees. "Our business is on the up and up."

When asked by a shareholder about his dream for the Kyoto-based motor developer and manufacturer 100 years from now, Nagamori mentioned the explosive growth expected in the market for motors for robots. "The wind is at our backs," he bragged. "The market will be worth more than ¥10 trillion. It could be ¥100 trillion or even ¥1 quadrillion."

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