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Sixteen have been killed in “snow related incidents”, while thousands are stranded in Tokyo and surrounding area.
Last updated: 17 Feb 2014 11:50
Transport difficulties have left stores and supermarkets empty in many of the affected regions [AFP]
|Thousands of residents in villages and towns across Japan remain stranded three days after a snowstorm, despite the military intervening to help with the clean-up.
Japanese media reported that 16 people were killed in “snow related incidents” across seven prefectures affected by the weather and thousands have been injured.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a parliamentary session on Monday: “Thanks to the weekend’s snow in Yamanashi and Nagano prefecture, some areas have received the highest levels of snow ever recorded. Due to such things as having their roofs collapse, a large number of people have lost their lives.
“We will continue to work closely with appropriate agencies and organizations to protect citizen’s and do everything in our power,” he added.
A snow storm hit Tokyo and the outlying prefectures last Friday. Parts of Yamanashi prefecture, west of Tokyo, saw more than a 1.1m of snow, the most the area has seen since records began in 1894.
The blizzard left cars on the highway stranded and, in some cases, entire villages cut off from transport as snow covered roads.
With hundreds stuck in their vehicles, some towns opened up public buildings and provided free food and warmth, especially to drivers running out of fuel. With stalled cars adding to the difficulties of the cleanup, many prefectures have asked for military help in digging up the roads.
The snow has meant that the transport of goods as well as people has been cut off, leaving supermarkets and convenience stores empty in many parts of the affected regions.
Japanese car makers, including Toyota and Honda, were forced to suspend operations after the heavy snow disrupted their supply chains and prevented workers from commuting.
Days before Tokyo won its bid to host the 2020 Olympics last September, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe stated that Fukushima contaminated water was “under control.” Now, as Reuters reports, the nation’s nuclear watchdog has uncovered that, following “uncertainty about the reliability and accuracy of the September strontium reading,” which prompted a re-examination of samples, levels of Strontium-90 were five times the levels previously recorded. The Japanese NRA blasted TEPCO, “We did not hear about this figure when they detected it last September. We have been repeatedly pushing TEPCO to release strontium data since November. It should not take them this long to release this information.” One can only wonder why – when the promise of $500 million of government support is on the line… and new cracks are appearing.
Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) is again in the midst of controversy for failing to timely report on record radiation levels at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. It is now blasted for holding back strontium measurements since September.
TEPCO on Wednesday revealed that it detected 5 million becquerels per liter of radioactive Strontium-90 in a groundwater sample taken some 25 meters from the ocean as early as last September, Reuters reports. The legal limit for releasing strontium into the ocean is just 30 becquerels per liter.
Although the reading was alarmingly five times the levels taken at the same spot two months prior to that, TEPCO decided not to immediately report it to the country’s nuclear watchdog. That is despite Strontium-90 being considered twice as harmful to people as Cesium-137, which was also released in large quantities during the meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011 caused by powerful earthquake and tsunami.
According to a TEPCO spokesman cited by Reuters, the decision was due to “uncertainty about the reliability and accuracy of the September strontium reading,” which prompted the plant’s operator to reexamine the data.
However, Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) officials say no data came up until now despite repeated demands to TEPCO.
“We did not hear about this figure when they detected it last September. We have been repeatedly pushing TEPCO to release strontium data since November. It should not take them this long to release this information,” Shinji Kinjo, head of the NRA taskforce on contaminated water issues at Fukushima, told the agency.
Top NRA officials, including the watchdog’s chairman, have lashed out at TEPCO for “lacking a fundamental understanding of measuring and handling radiation” while responding to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“This is not an appropriate way to deal with the desire of the public [for transparency] and in particular, the regulator, which is now very closely regulating issues related to public health, the environment and so on,” Martin Schulz, a senior research fellow at the Fujitsu Research Institute, has said.
On Thursday, fears of new leaks surfaced in Japanese media, as Asahi Shimbun reported two cracks in a concrete floor of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 facility near radioactive water storage tanks. Some contaminated water from the melting snow may have seeped into the ground through the cracks stretching for 12 and 8 meters, TEPCO said.
Earlier last year, TEPCO came under criticism for letting radioactive water leak from a tank at Fukushima and also concealing the fact for some time.
Days before Tokyo won its bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games last September, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claimed that contaminated water at Fukushima was “under control”and vowed to provide some $500 million to help contain it.
Shinzo Abe’s Nationalist Strategy
With his overt nationalism and his historical revisionism, Shinzo Abe has a plan for Japan.
The world is now beginning to realize Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s true intentions. With his controversial visit to the Yasukuni shrine, which memorializes war dead, including Class A war criminals such as Hideki Tojo, he is no longer hesitant to reveal his true nature: without question, the most conservative leader in Japan’s postwar history. And he is a historical revisionist, notably with respect to wartime Japan. By encouraging a spirit of nationalism, Abe is hoping to engender self-confidence and patriotism among the Japanese public.
But what exactly is his future agenda? To understand Abe’s political ambitions, you need to understand their take on modern Japan.
For mainstream Japanese conservatives such as the Abe family, Tokyo has been shackled since it accepted the judgments of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, known as the Tokyo Trials. For one thing, as a defeated nation Japan has always been forced to take a servile position— militarily and diplomatically—toward the U.S., the World War II victor. And Japan has had to repeatedly bow its head to its neighbors, such as China and South Korea, to apologize for its conduct during the war.
Willingly or not, Japan embraced these two international restraints when it signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, hoping to return to the fold of the international community as an independent nation.
More than 60 years later, though, the Abe administration wants to free Japan from these perceived shackles. In his own words, he is seeking a “departure from the postwar regime” by “bringing back Japan.” Although Abe has never said from “what” he will bring back the nation, many Japanese believe what he meant is to bring back a militarily, diplomatically and economically strong Japan from the political and economic abyss of the past decades, and perhaps in the long term from the U.S. itself.
Although Abe’s popularity has recently tapered somewhat from the heady days early in this, his second stint as prime minister, many Japanese still support his nationalistic program, because they feel that Japan lacks strength and needs to stand on its own feet, amid mounting nationalism in East Asia and a rising China.
So, to return to the question: What is Abe’s grand strategy? In fact, Abe has a three-year plan to accomplish his ultimate goal of having Japan “depart from the postwar regime.”
Abe’s Three-Year Plan
During the first year of his second term in office 2013, Abe proposed a move from “passive pacifism” to a “proactive pacifism” that encourages Japan to contribute more proactively to world peace and international cooperation. He then established a Japanese National Security Council (NSC). He also announced the first National Security Strategy (NSS) and the National Defense Programme Guidelines (NDPG) that introduced the concept of “a Dynamic Joint Defense Force.” This new concept emphasizes the Self-Defense Forces’ (SDF) joint operations and interoperability capability at sea, in the air and on land, and bolster the nation’s defensive posture in the southwest—in particular the Nansei island chain that includes Okinawa and the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea.
Over the last year, Abe’s government has also enacted a controversial secrecy law to prevent leaks of state secrets, after it was pressured by the U.S. to tighten the confidentiality of their shared intelligence on security.
Now, in his second year, Abe is trying to reinterpret the constitution to allow for the exercise of the right of collective self-defense. Abe will also formally abolish Japan’s decades-old ban on weapons exports this year. In January, his administration revised textbook screening guidelines to give Japanese children a more patriotic take on modern Japanese history and to better reflect the government’s view on territorial issues such as on Senkaku Islands. Abe has also succeeded in placing four conservative intellectuals with whom he has very close ties on Japan’s public television NHK’s management board. Some of their comments have already stirred considerable controversy.
In this third year, 2015, Abe plans to change Article 9 of the U.S.-imposed pacifist constitution, accomplishing his final goal of escaping from the postwar regime.
This three-year plan seeks to boost national security and could lead to Japanese involvement in conflicts abroad in the future.
Shinichi Kitaoka, a former Japanese ambassador to the United Nations and a key Abe adviser, remarked recently that all of these steps are simply trying to bring Japan closer to a “normal country.” Kitaoka is now deputy chairman of Abe’s Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security, which is expected to recommend reinterpreting Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution to lift the self-imposed ban on the right to exercise collective self-defense in April.
The Japan-China provocations show no sign of letting up
By Joe Schlesinger, CBC News Posted: Feb 08, 2014 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Feb 08, 2014 5:00 AM ET
Foreign Correspondent Emeritus
Joe Schlesinger was a foreign correspondent for CBC for 28 years, covering natural disasters, political upheavals and conflicts from Vietnam to the Persian Gulf. In 2009, the Canadian Journalism Foundation honoured Schlesinger for his body of work.
The Davos economic conference is over, and the presidents, prime ministers and other potentates who attended have gone home with their briefcases full of recipes on how to make the world — and themselves — richer and more secure.
Some of these recipes will surely do some good. Except for one big hitch. The kitchens in which the fate of nations is baked may be in danger of blowing up.
The man holding the fuse aloft is Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan no less.
His warning was that the current tension between his country and China is similar to the rivalry between Britain and Germany that led to the First World War 100 years ago. And it sparked a very angry, un-Davos-like response from the Chinese, one of whom compared Abe to North Korea’s wacky dictator.
While Abe talked in generalities about the trouble brewing in the region, everyone knew that he was talking about the escalating tug of war over the eight contested islands in the East China Sea.
These rocks, some smaller than a football field, are called Diaoyu by the Chinese; they are 330 km from China’s coast and 410 km from Japan, where they are known as Senkaku.
Their inhabitants: moles, goats and albatrosses. More importantly, though, the islands are surrounded by the magical Aladdin’s lamp of our era — oil and gas deposits.
The area has been controlled by Japan since the days of gunboats and colonial expansion in the 1890s.
And in laying claim to these islands now, China is trying to match its status as a new economic superpower by asserting itself as a military force (as Abe sees it, like Germany did a century ago).
Two months ago, Beijing announced the creation of an air defence identification zone over the portion of the East China Sea that includes Diaoyu.
The new rules, with their implicit threat of military action against foreign aircraft that don’t identify themselves to Chinese authorities, caused an international uproar.
But the immediate danger is in the military jockeying that’s taking place over these islands.
The warplanes China has dispatched to patrol the area have been challenged by U.S., Japanese and South Korean fighter planes.
With armed planes buzzing each other in a small airspace, there is the very real possibility that a simple miscalculation could lead to war, not unlike the small events that triggered WWI.
Another danger factor is the animosity that still exists between the Chinese and Japanese; in many ways they have never put the Second World War behind them as most other former enemies have.
Echoes of 1914
It isn’t that either Japan or China wants war necessarily — though both are arming noticeably.
What’s more likely going on in the East China Sea is that two of the world’s largest economies — China is No. 2 and Japan No. 3 — have ramped up their bullhorn rivalry as a means of deflecting attention from their own domestic problems.
However, if not checked by the power of No. 1 — the U.S., which is showing its disinclination to intervene abroad militarily — the animosity between China and Japan could unleash a wider conflict.
When 1914 came, there was no hint of the scale of the disaster to come.
Then, as now, the world had gone through a period without the kind of far-ranging wars that devastated continents.
Europe, which endured centuries of bloody conflicts, had been largely peaceful from the 1850s on.
But by the early 1900s, a growing world economy rested on colonial empires. Not just European ones either.
Japan also acquired colonies towards the end of 19th century, mainly by conquering Korea and setting its sights on Russian-controlled Manchuria.
What made being an imperial power so attractive was that it provided cheap colonial labour and raw materials — the equivalent of today’s coveted undersea resources — and turned these colonies into protected markets for the “mother” country’s manufactured goods.
Lines in the sea
In 1914, the world’s two biggest industrial powers were Germany and Britain, who were also among each other’s biggest trading partners.
But the Germans were frustrated because the Brits had the world’s largest empire — and navy. And they became determined to grab a bigger share of the global pie.
Their opportunity came when Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrian throne next door, was assassinated in June 1914 by a Serbian nationalist.
The Austrians, encouraged by Germany’s promises to back them up with its huge army, blamed the assassination on Serbia and declared war on the Serbian kingdom.
That started the dominoes falling. As expected, Russia came out on Serbia’s side. Germany, in turn, declared war on Russia and, for good measure, on France as an ally of Russia, while Britain joined in as an ally of France.
Once the U.K. became involved, Canada was in automatically as a member of the British Empire.
Even distant Japan declared war on Germany because of an alliance with Britain. And Turkey, which had been at odds with Russia, also joined the fray.
Within four months of Ferdinand’s death just about all of Europe and much beyond was bogged down in a war that would last four years and cost more than 16 million lives.
Some would argue it has continued its baneful influence to this day, from communism to Nazism and the Second World War with its many disastrous aftershocks.
The grievous miscalculations of 1914 should serve all those involved in the current spat over those few rocks in the China Sea as a lesson about the danger of setting lines in the sea and defying the rest of the world with shows of might.
Once the shooting starts it can be too late. As it was in 1914.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, pressed by China and seeking to strengthen ties with the U.S., is considering Japan’s biggest change in military engagement rules since World War II.
Barred by its interpretation of a pacifist constitution from protecting other nations’ troops, Japan needs broader deployment abilities, according to Abe, 59. Having increased defense spending two years running and set up a U.S.-style National Security Council, Abe is now seeking to allow Japan to come to the aid of its allies, telling parliament yesterday that “it’s about whether we can exercise this right that every country has.”
China’s escalating challenge to Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea played into Abe’s plans to strengthen the military, said ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Katsuei Hirasawa. The initiative, which requires backing by Abe’s coalition partner, faces public opposition and risks further straining ties with China and South Korea that soured in December with Abe’s visit to a war shrine in Tokyo.
“Abe is determined to do this now because otherwise it is very difficult to get support,” said Tsuneo Watanabe, senior fellow at The Tokyo Foundation research center. When regional tensions are low “people don’t see the need for it.”
Abe has shown a willingness to expend political capital on national security. His approval rating dipped below 50 percent after he passed a bill in December to stiffen penalties for leaking state secrets that was favored by the U.S. but opposed by a majority of Japanese. His popularity is back above 55 percent and there are no national elections before 2016, giving him some protection from the fallout of loosening the rules on collective self-defense.
Fifty four percent of Japanese are against the change, according to a poll by Kyodo News on Jan. 25-26. “This is partly to do with postwar pacifist sentiment in Japan, given that Japan was engaged in a very atrocious and damaging war of aggression,” said Koichi Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia University in Tokyo.
Such a change would also escalate tensions with China and South Korea, where memories of Japan’s occupation resonate almost 70 years after the end of World War II.
“Japan should build mutual trust with countries in the region, including South Korea, China and Southeast Asian ones, rather than pursue collective security now,” South Korean Vice Defense Minister Baek Seung Joo said, according to a Nov. 6 ministry statement.
Enabling collective self-defense could help ensure the U.S. backs Japan militarily if China asserts its claims over the islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. In November, China set up an air identification zone over part of the East China Sea covering the islands, increasing the risk of confrontation with Japan and the U.S.
“What is lucky for the Abe administration is that China set up the ADIZ,” said the LDP’s Hirasawa, who tutored Abe as a child. “That proves that what the Abe administration has been saying is correct. China is taking a stronger and stronger stance.”
Japan was stung by accusations of “checkbook diplomacy” after the country contributed $13 billion and no troops to the U.S.-led 1991 Gulf War, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The government then began changing policy, allowing the first substantial contribution of troops to a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Cambodia in 1992. Still, the 600 troops sent to Iraq in 2004 to support the U.S.-led war were limited to non-combat duties and had to be protected by Dutch and Australian soldiers.
The move comes as part of Abe’s policy of contributing more actively to international security and seeking a higher profile on the world stage, with a busy diplomatic schedule taking him to 30 countries in his first year in office.
“Abe is more of a globalist than just about any of his predecessors,” said Alan Dupont, a professor of international security at the University of New South Wales. “He sees a new role for Japan commensurate with its economic and political weight.”
Yousuke Isozaki, a special adviser to Abe on security policy, is spearheading the effort on collective self-defense and says the change will deepen security ties with the U.S. and allow Japan to reach out to other allies.
“We want to be able to discuss security with friendly countries other than the U.S.,”he said in a Jan. 17 interview. “If we are bound hand and foot, we cannot talk. We cannot even say we will protect one another if something happens.”
Isozaki guided Abe’s unpopular secrecy bill through parliament while thousands of protesters chanted outside the building.
“There’s no time to sit around,” he said. The process will accelerate once an advisory panel of mostly academics submits its recommendations in April. Isozaki is looking for the LDP and its pacifist partner New Komeito to adopt a joint position by June, and expects bills related to the change to be presented starting in autumn.
“Japan will be a more effective alliance partner if its Self-Defense Forces are able to help defend American soldiers or sailors if they are attacked,” U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy told the Asahi newspaper in an interview published Jan. 23.
Securing the reinterpretation will be complicated by the need for Komeito’s support. “Until now, we haven’t done a single thing without the agreement of Komeito,” Isozaki said. “Getting their approval is a must.” Komeito backed Abe’s on the secrecy bill and the NSC legislation.
Isamu Ueda, deputy head of Komeito’s policy panel, said he favors Japan’s pacifist policy, while being open to possible exemptions such as allowing troops to protect other countries’ forces during peacekeeping work.
“We believe Japan should keep its military power to a minimum,” Ueda said in a Jan. 21 interview. “Japan should not be involved in international conflicts outside the country.”
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson firstname.lastname@example.org
Kudos to the Bank of Japan. Its heroic campaign to water down the yen has borne fruit. The Japanese may not have noticed it because it is not indicated in bold red kanji on their bank and brokerage statements, and so they might not give their Bank of Japandemonium full credit for it, but about 20% of their magnificent wealth has gone up in smoke in 2013. And in 2014, more of it will go up in smoke – according to the plan of Abenomics.
What folks do notice is that goods and services keep getting more expensive. Inflation has become reality. The scourge that has so successfully hallowed out the American middle class has arrived in Japan. The consumer price index rose 1.6% in December from a year earlier. While prices of services edged up 0.6%, prices of goods jumped 2.6%.
It’s hitting households. In December, their average income was up 0.3% in nominal terms from a year earlier. But adjusted for inflation – this is where the full benefits of Abenomics kick in – average income dropped 1.7%. Real disposable income dropped 2.1%.
Abenomics is tightening their belts. But hey, they voted for this illustrious program. So they’re not revolting just yet. But they’re thinking twice before they extract with infinite care their pristine and beloved 10,000-yen notes from their wallets. And inflation-adjusted consumption expenditures – excluding housing, purchase of vehicles, money gifts, and remittances – dropped 2.3%.
But purchases of durable goods have been soaring. Everyone is front-loading big ticket items ahead of April 1, when the very broad-based consumption tax will be hiked from 5% to 8%. Pulling major expenditures forward a few months or even a year or so is the equivalent of obtaining a guaranteed 3% tax-free return on investment. That’s huge in a country where interest rates on CDs are so close to zero that you can’t tell the difference and where even crappy 10-year Japanese Government Bonds yield 0.62%. It’s a powerful motivation.
And it has turned into a frenzy. In December, households purchased 32.2% more in durable goods than the same month a year earlier, in November 25.2%, in October 40.4%. These front-loaded purchases have been goosing the economy in late 2013. But shortly before April 1, they will grind to a halt. The Japanese have been through this before.
In 1996, after the consumption tax hike from 3% to 5% was passed and scheduled to take effect on April 1, 1997, consumers and businesses went on a buying binge of big-ticket items to dodge the extra 2% in taxes. The economy boomed. But it ended in an enormous hangover. In the spring 1997, as the tax hike took effect, business and consumer spending ground to a halt, and the economy skittered into a nasty recession that lasted a year and a half!
First indications of a repeat performance are already visible. The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) forecast last week that sales of automobiles, after an already lousy 2013, would plunge 9.8% this year to 4.85 million units, the lowest since 2011 when the earthquake and tsunami laid waste to car purchases.
In response, automakers will curtail production for domestic sales. Other makers of durable goods – those that still manufacture in Japan – will prepare for the hangover in a similar manner. Housing and construction will get hit. Retailers will get hit too. During the last consumption tax hike, many large retailers tried to keep their chin above water by not passing the 2% tax hike on to their customers but shove it backwards up the pipeline to their suppliers. This time, having learned its lesson, the government is insisting on inflation, and it passed legislation last year that would force retailers to stick their customers with an across-the-board 3% price increase.
In 2014, the hangover will be even worse than in 1997. Businesses and consumers are dodging a hike of three percentage points, not two percentage points. Hence, the motivation to front-load is even stronger, the payoff greater, and the subsequent falloff steeper. This, on top of the already toxic concoction of stagnant wages and rising prices. Oh, and the plight of the retirees, whose savings and income streams are gradually getting eaten up by inflation. The glories of Abenomics.
But there are beneficiaries. Japan Inc. benefits from lower cost of labor. The government, without having to reform its drunken ways, might somehow be able to keep its out-of-control deficits and its mountain of debt from blowing up in the immediate future. Throughout, the Bank of Japan, which is buying up enough government bonds to monetize the entire deficit plus part of the mountain of existing debt, will remain in control of the government bond market, what little is left of it – even if it has to buy the last bond that isn’t totally nailed down. But for the real economy the party is now ending, and by spring, a pounding hangover will set in.
According to Japan’s state religion of Abenomics, devaluing the yen would boost exports and cut imports. The resulting trade surplus would jumpstart the economy and induce Japan Inc. to invest at home. It would save Japan. But the opposite is happening. Read…. Why Japan’s Trade Fiasco Worries Me So Much
» Harvard Professor Warns of “Devastating” China-Japan War Alex Jones’ Infowars: There’s a war on for your mind!
Russian study says U.S. could easily defeat Beijing in nuclear conflict
Paul Joseph Watson
January 23, 2014
Harvard Professor Ezra Vogel warned of the devastating consequences of a potential war between China and Japan during a conference in Beijing.
Vogel, a Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus at Harvard University, is an expert sinologist having written extensively on relations between the two countries for decades.
During his speech, Vogel highlighted Japan’s historical revisionism, characterized by the refusal in Japanese school textbooks to accept responsibility for the second world war, as well as the territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, as the two key factors driving hostilities.
“Any potential war between the two nations would be devastating to both, Vogel said,” according to the Want China Times, “adding that it would take at least 10 years for Beijing and Tokyo to resume normalized relations if a third Sino-Japanese war were to take place.”
Vogel also urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to stop visiting the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo that honors 14 war criminals who were executed as a result of post-war Allied tribunals. During his speech at Davos yesterday, Abe warned that the global community must restrain military expansion in Asia. Although he didn’t name them directly, Abe’s comments were obviously aimed at Beijing.
Vogel’s warning arrives concurrently with analysis by Moscow-based Expert magazine which suggests that the United States would easily defeat China in a potential nuclear war because Beijing is reliant on decades-old Soviet technology. Back in November, Chinese state-run media released a map showing the locations of major U.S. cities and how they would be impacted by a nuclear strike launched from the PLA’s strategic submarine force.
Earlier this week, state media reported that China’s new hypersonic missile vehicle is primarily designed to target U.S. aircraft carriers.
A deluge of aggressive rhetoric has emerged out of official Communist Party organs in recent months, including discussion about China’s ability to attack US military bases in the Western Pacific, as well as a lengthy editorial which appeared in Chinese state media last month explaining how the Chinese military’s current reformation process was part of a move by President Xi Jinping to prepare the People’s Liberation Army for war.
We have long held that Africa is a crucial region of the world in the near future because there is no more incremental debt capacity at any level: sovereign, household, financial or corporate – in any other region. As we noted previously:
without the ability to create debt out of thin air, be it on a secured or unsecured basis, the ability to “create” growth, at least in the current Keynesian paradigm, goes away with it. Yet there is one place where there is untapped credit creation potential, if not on an unsecured (i.e., future cash flow discounting), then certainly on a secured (hard asset collateral) basis. The place is Africa, and according to some estimates the continent, Africa can create between $5 and $10 trillion in secured debt, using its extensive untapped resources as first-lien collateral.
Africa is precisely where the smart money (and those who quietly run the above mentioned “power echelons”), namely China and Goldman Sachs, have refocused all their attention in the past year precisely because they both realize that Africa is the last and only bastion of untapped credit growth and capacity.
Africa in geographical perspective…
So it is perhaps unsurprising that China’s current arch-enemy Japan – and its apparently bottomless well of printed money – are taking aim also…
Submitted by Shannon Tiezzi, via The Diplomat,
As tensions between China and Japan multiply, there is an increasing battle for influence in other states. For example, in his recent article in The Diplomat, Jin Kai noted China and Japan’s global media war. There has also been an upswing in more traditional diplomatic wrangling, with Japan seeking to increase its influence in ASEAN as an attempt to reduce China’s sway in the region. With both China and Japan seeking to assert their leadership over the Asia-Pacific, it makes sense that both countries would woo ASEAN. It’s a bit more surprisingly to see China-Japan diplomatic competition supposedly pop up in Africa.
Recently, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe both visited the African continent. Abe left on January 9 for a week-long tour of the Ivory Coast, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. Meanwhile, Wang was in Africa from January 7 to January 11, visiting Ethiopia, Djibouti, Ghana, and Senegal. Given the current chill in China-Japan relations (and the tendency for both countries to snipe at each other in the media), the two trips quickly morphed into a sign of ‘competition’ over Africa.
Both countries rejected the idea that they were competing. When Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying was asked to comment on the idea that Wang Yi’s visit to Africa “is directed against Japan,” she responded that anyone harboring this idea “is not so acquainted with the past and present of China-Africa relations.” Indeed, as Hua pointed out, it’s traditional for Chinese Foreign Ministers to visit Africa as their first overseas trip of the new year. Hua praised China “sincere and selfless help” for Africa, and warned that trying to stir up a rivalry in Africa is “a wrong decision which is doomed to fail.” This comment was likely directed at Japan, but could just as easily apply to the United States and other countries seeking to increase their influence in Africa.
Japan also denied that Abe’s visit to Africa had anything to do with China. Hiroshige Seko, a deputy chief cabinet secretary, was quoted in an Associated Press article as saying that competing against China is “not our intention at all.” Seko added, “As far as the African nations are concerned, they are important regardless of China.” African countries are important to Japan for the same reason they are to China — a wealth of natural resources as well as ample opportunity for foreign investment. The New York Times pointed out that increasing ties with Africa is just one aspect of Abe’s diplomatic strategy, all of which is designed to support “Abenomics.”
In a speech in Ethiopia, Abe reaffirmed Africa’s importance. “A considerable number of Japanese believe that Africa is the hope for Japan,” he said. His speech focused almost entirely on the potential for a positive relationship between Africans and Japanese companies — including how Japanese management strategies can benefit African people. “When Japanese companies that value each and every individual come to Africa, a win-win relationship in the truest sense can emerge,” Abe said. By contrast, his vision of the Japanese government’s role in Africa seemed like an afterthought. Abe did discuss his wish for more cooperation with the African Union, and offered to increase Japans’ assistance and loans to the continent, but he spent far less time on this point than on extolling the virtues of Japanese businesses.
Japan’s strategy, in other words, is economically focused. It’s clear that Abe’s pursuit of a relationship with Africa is closely connected with Japanese businesses. China, on the other hand, constantly emphasizes the “friendship” between its government and those of African nations. Though Chinese companies do big business in China, Beijing almost never alludes to this fact in its official remarks. When joint projects (such as roads or government buildings) are brought up, these projects are always a sign of China’s friendship towards Africa.
Accordingly, in his speeches Wang Yi focused on the government-to-government relationships between China and African nations. In Senegal, Wang called for both countries “to firmly support each other’s core interest[s] and major concerns.” In Ghana, he spoke about the need “to promote practical cooperation through strengthening traditional friendship.” China’s relationships with African countries are focused not just on business opportunities (although of course that’s an important aspect) but also on gaining African diplomatic support for China’s policies.
Whereas Abe seems content to have Japanese businesses make profits, China is actively pursuing soft power on the continent. This is nothing new for China. A 2013 study by Gustavo Flores-Macías and Sarah Kreps of Cornell University found that, since the mid-1990s, China has been quite successful at parlaying its trade relationships in Africa and Latin America into tangible foreign policy support. Japan doesn’t seem to be seeking this sort of influence (at least, not yet). Instead, Abe is more openly concerned with increasing economic interactions. While China and Japan may look like they’re competing in Africa, the two countries are actually playing different games.
Chinese ships and aircraft have attempted to demonstrate Beijing’s claims to the islands [Reuters/Kyodo]
|Japan’s defence minister has vowed to defend the country’s territory after three Chinese government ships entered disputed waters off Tokyo-controlled islands in the East China Sea.
The Chinese coastguard vessels sailed at about 8:30am local time on Sunday (2330 GMT on Saturday) into territorial waters off one of the Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus, Japan’s coastguard said.
The ships left less than two hours later.
“We can never overlook repeated incursions into territorial waters,” Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera told reporters.
“We need to make diplomatic efforts on one hand. We also want to firmly defend our country’s territorial sea and land with the self-defence forces cooperating with the coastguard,” he said.
Chinese state-owned ships and aircraft approach the disputed islands from time to time in an effort to demonstrate Beijing’s territorial claims, especially after Japan nationalised some of the islands in September 2012.
Sunday marked the first time Chinese ships were spotted there since December 29, when three coastguard ships entered the zone and stayed for about three hours, Japanese officials said.
Japanese coastguard patrol boats have tried to chase Chinese vessels away, fuelling tensions that some fear could spiral into an armed clash. Japan’s conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has vowed no compromise on the sovereignty of the islands and recently announced a boost in military spending.
Tensions were heightened in recent months after Beijing announced an air defence identification zone covering a large swathe of the East China Sea, including the disputed islands.
The war of words (and deeds) is once again escalating between China and Japan. As we detailed last night, this has been a long time coming and as Reuters reports today took a further turn for the worse. In an op-ed in Britain’s Daily Telegraph, the Chinese ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, wrote last week: “If militarism is like the haunting Voldemort of Japan, the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo is a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest parts of that nation’s soul.” Liu’s commentary was followed by another published on Sunday by his Japanese counterpart, Keiichi Hayashi, in the same newspaper, headlined: “China risks becoming Asia’s Voldemort“. As was noted, “Five thousand years of traditional virtues have been turned into this?”
China lambasted Japan on Tuesday for comparing it to Lord Voldemort, the villain in the Harry Potter stories, after both countries used the character to describe each other in a tit-for-tat diplomatic spat.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s December 26 visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals are enshrined along with other war dead, infuriated China and South Korea and prompted concern from the United States, a key ally.
Both China and Korea suffered under brutal Japanese rule, with parts of China occupied in the 1930s and Korea colonized from 1910 to 1945.
In an op-ed in Britain’s Daily Telegraph, the Chinese ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming, wrote last week: “If militarism is like the haunting Voldemort of Japan, the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo is a kind of horcrux, representing the darkest parts of that nation’s soul.”
Liu’s commentary was followed by another published on Sunday by his Japanese counterpart, Keiichi Hayashi, in the same newspaper, headlined: “China risks becoming Asia’s Voldemort”.
“I would like to point out that, to Asia and countries in other regions of the world, militaristic invasion is the darkest devil in the history of Japan,” Hua said at a daily news briefing, according to a transcript posted on the foreign ministry’s website.
the People’s Daily, said the “Sino-Japanese war of public opinion is facing an escalation on all fronts“.
“We need to make our demands simple and clear, that is, the Japanese prime minister cannot visit the war criminals in Yasukuni because it is equivalent to paying homage to criminals like Hitler and Goebbels,” the newspaper said, referring to the leaders of Nazi Germany.
“Five thousand years of traditional virtues have been turned into this?” wrote another microblogger.