This week we focus on some Japanese views of China. The national relationship is very old and has not always been friendly. But Japanese business and companies have operated in China for a long time.
Will Japanese companies leave China after COVID-19?
There are reports that the Japanese government has prepared a large budget to help Japanese companies withdraw from China and return to Japan or go to a third country. This is a question that everyone is concerned about, but you must be careful when answering this question, otherwise it is easy to mislead readers.
Here, we first need to review the history of China and Japan. From the 19th century to the 20th century, China and Japan went through a detour that they should not have taken. After the 1980s, China and Japan set aside chaos and began to seek normalization of relations, which is the promotion of China-Japan friendship.
After the diplomatic relations between China and Japan, Japanese film and television works continued to be released in China, and Japanese companies invested heavily in China. The distance between Chinese and Japanese was gradually getting closer. Now millions of Chinese tourists travel to Japan every year.
Almost all the Chinese who travel to Japan for the first time get their first impression of Japan is ‘why no one throws trash on the streets of Japan’? Most Chinese people are surprised by the cleanliness of Japanese streets. Quite a few Chinese people have changed their impression of Japan.
The purpose of corporate investment is to pursue profit. I believe that Japanese companies investing in China are not just giving economic assistance to China. For Japanese companies, China’s cheap labour, improved transportation infrastructure, from energy shortages to no power outages – all these are important parameters for attracting Japanese companies to invest in China.
If an enterprise invests in China only to reduce costs and use China’s cheap labour to manufacture cheap products and commodities, the return on investment in China is gradually shrinking. China’s labour costs are rising rapidly with economic development. We cannot imagine that China’s economy has developed without increasing labour costs.
But if we look closely at the investment of Japanese companies in China, we can find that in addition to Japanese companies that use China as a base for export production and processing, more companies are targeting the Chinese market. This is because, as China’s labour costs increase, the purchasing power of Chinese households is constantly improving. Thus the Chinese market is gradually replacing cheap labour costs as the most important parameter for attracting foreign investment.
For example, China’s automobile market has become the world’s largest consumer market. It is said that in the 1980s, China had just started to open its auto market. The Chinese government intended to invite Toyota Motor to take the lead in investing in China. However, Toyota’s upper management considered that the Chinese market was far from mature and declined the Chinese government’s goodwill. Toyota’s decision certainly has its own rationality, but today China has become one of Toyota’s most important markets.
In another view from Japan, the writer comments on the current drive to reduce food waste in China.
Living too tight to save food
Over the past few months, the national economy has been seriously dragged down. Because of this, at the People’s Congress held in May, Premier Li Keqiang solemnly called on local governments and party members to live a tight life. For decades, the lives of the Chinese people have been improving with the development of the economy, and now they suddenly call on everyone to live a tight life.
I believe many people have no idea.
The Yangtze River basin is a land of fish and rice. It has been hit by long-term floods. It is not difficult to imagine that the next disaster will be a food supply problem. Therefore, the central government has recently called on everyone to save food.
If we simply check the annual statistics and related reports, we can find that no matter what difficulties we encounter, China’s grain production has achieved a bumper harvest every year, and there is not one year’s failure. Of course, no matter how big the harvest is, we should not waste food. Elderly people know that during the Cultural Revolution, there was a well-known saying “Waste is a great crime.”
So specifically, who is wasting?
Every time I go back to China for business, I have to eat out at a restaurant. I can see people’s dining tables every time, and the level of waste is unsightly.
The most serious waste in China was public money eating and drinking. The first is not using one’s own money, and the second is lack of supervision by the masses, so the phenomenon of waste has not been corrected.
But having said that, the anti-corruption shockwaves over the years have played a role in deterring officials’ misuse of public funds. Compared with the past, when returning to China on business trips, there is basically no sign of lavish eating and drinking. Several times I went to the hotel for dinner with my parents and asked if there was shark fin? The waiter said that he would not do high-end dishes such as abalone now because there were very few people ordering them.
So why call for a tight life to save food?
I believe the main reason is that the economy has encountered great difficulties, and the degree of difficulty is much more serious than the statistics show. But saving should not only be a measure in difficult times, saving and not wasting should be the norm.
Just imagine if the food problem is solved next year, should being careful become a thing of the past?
In another external view, the writer from Zaobao, the largest Chinese language newspaper in Singapore, recalls some interesting gossip from a celebration ten years ago.
This year is the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. In the past few months, people in Shenzhen have held several celebrations.
10 years ago the Shenzhen Municipal Government held a celebration for the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the special zone. The General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and President Hu Jintao went south to attend the event and delivered speeches. The event attracted a large number of Hong Kong and foreign media reporters.
To be honest, the day’s events were boring. On the contrary, Hu Jintao’s two small actions during the period unexpectedly attracted public attention.
Let me talk about the first thing. Wen Jiabao, then Premier of the State Council of China, who first visited Shenzhen in August. During this visit, he made a high-profile call for “promoting the reform of the political system within the party.” For this reason, the outside world had great expectations for Hu Jintao’s trip to Shenzhen.
However, Hu Jintao did not respond to Wen Jiabao at the celebration meeting, but simply emphasized “to comprehensively promote economic, political, cultural and social system reforms”.
The different tone of Hu and Wen attracted immediate attention.
Some Hong Kong media revealed that in the written speech of Hu Jintao held by Shenzhen officials that day, there was a sentence “actively promote the construction of inner-party democracy to expand inner-party democracy and promote people’s democracy”, but Hu Jintao did not mention it in his speech.
A sharp-eyed Hong Kong reporter noticed that a man sitting in the front row, who looked like an official, was concentrating on reading a document, occasionally drawing a pen. The reporter took a closer look and found out that this person was checking Hu Jintao’s speech. The reporter found that some sentences, such as political reform content, were not read by Hu Jintao. Some political analysts claimed that the subtle changes in the content of the speech reflect Hu Jintao’s cautiousness on the issue of the party’s internal political reform.
Indeed, the speeches of Chinese leaders on important occasions have been carefully considered and should not be lost.
But in all fairness, considering that leaders attend more than a dozen events every day, it’s not surprising that you don’t read lectures on the spot. China’s political reform situation is complicated and over-interpreted. In fact, in many public events in Hong Kong, many officials’ speeches and texts are different, and there is no need to over-interpret the political implications behind them.
The second thing is related to Li Ka-shing, the richest man in Hong Kong. On that day, Li Ka-shing was also invited to attend the event and took the stage to give a speech. He was received by Hu Jintao alone before the celebration.
During the meeting, Hu Jintao said to Li Ka-shing very politely: “As soon as I arrived yesterday, I heard that you were here, I told the officials, I said that regardless of the length of time, I will always meet with you and have a chat.” After that, Hu Jintao praised Li Ka-shing as an outstanding business entrepreneur and wished him good health.
It turned out that, after Hu came to power, he repeatedly asked the Hong Kong SAR government to pay attention to the interests of the grassroots. Many people believed that the Hong Kong government would no longer prioritize the interests of the business community in its administration. Hu Jintao’s public courtesy to Li Ka-shing naturally aroused many speculations in Hong Kong media in Hong Kong that the Hong Kong government may once again attach importance to the interests of the business community.
The above two small things more or less reflect the inertia of Hong Kong media in interpreting news. In any case, the special treatment that Li Ka-shing received from Hu Jintao’s high-profile interview just reflects Beijing’s recognition of Hong Kong people’s major contributions to Shenzhen’s reform and development over the past decades.
What is awe-inspiring is that 10 years have passed, and Shenzhen has developed rapidly. But Hong Kong, which is separated only by a river, is constantly mired in political disputes.
If tomorrow the Shenzhen government holds a celebration meeting for the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Special Economic Zone, and the current Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the meeting, will the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce be individually received by Xi Jinping?
(I am not sure what point the writer is making here. The history is interesting but what is the purpose of the last paragraph?)