Re: A news item and subject which I just want to check out (72)  December 16, 2022

“Sen” (battle) was written by a chief abbot Mori as a “kanji” (Chinese character) describing the annual social conditions of the year in one letter at Kiyomizu-dera in Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto City on December 12. It is said that it got the most votes, 4.83 %, out of more than 220 thousand applications, and was chosen. “Sen” was chosen for the second time since 2001. Incidentally, the second was “An” (peaceful) and the third was “Raku” (happy), and these letters are the exact opposite of “Sen” and it seems that they symbolize desire over reality.
There is just over two weeks left in the year, and as New Year’s Eve approaches “Red and White Year-end Song Festival” becomes a hot topic. Artists to appear on the song festival were announced the other day, but artists who are unfamiliar to my generation are increasing year by year. I read a comic haiku “red and white year-end song festival intended for elderly is separately needed” in comic haiku section of the newspaper the other day, and I realize that “the showa era is far away”.

■■There was a lot this week.
■Results of midterm elections in the United States:
Based on midterm elections voting and counting votes on November 8, all seats of United States Congress were confirmed on December 13. In the House of Representatives, the opposition party, the Republican Party, won 222 seats defeating the Democratic Party (213 seats) by nine seats, and regained the majority. In the Senate (100 seats), the Democratic Party won in undecided Georgia, and the ruling party, the Democratic Party including uncontested seats won 51 seats and maintained the majority. Consequently, new congress starting from January 2023 becomes “divided congress”, lower and upper houses being controlled by different parties. However, on the diplomatic front, in particular basic policies such as continued support to Ukraine and hardline stance against China, both parties reach nonpartisan consensus, and I don’t think there will be any major changes.
Looking back on the past, Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton contested in the 2016 presidential election. At that time, “the first birth of a female president” became a hot topic. However, there was no enthusiastic boom such as “let the first black president be born” when Mr. Obama run for president in 2008. During the 2016 presidential election, I had an opportunity to visit Washington by chance, and what I heard there was that “I don’t like Trump but I don’t like Clinton much more” especially heard from female voices. After the defeat, Mrs. Clinton told that “there was the ceiling of the glass”, but in fact, it was a rejection to her own qualities rather than the expectation of “the first female president”. Looking at the results, I think that the will of the people called “they support the Republican Party but don’t like Trump” has emerged. In the end, it turned out like Mr. Trump’s solo wrestling or his own goal put in today’s words. Due to the results of this election, Mr. Trump’s presence or influence weakened and his re-running for the 2024 presidential election and re-election have become tougher. You could say that it is good for Japan, but the governor of Florida Mr. DeSantis seen as a strong successor is a person who has the same political beliefs as Mr. Trump. I think personally that Mr. Pence the former vice president is better in terms of his career, but his approval rating is not high at the moment.

■Global economy:
Inflation is progressing globally, and most countries except Japan are raising the interest rate in order to control inflation. The United States had raised the interest rate by 0.75% 4 times in a row this year, but raised by only 0.5% this time on December 14, because the price increase has slowed down recently. Stock prices are also fluctuating by inflation and interest rate policy. The decline in the high-tech stocks is particularly noteworthy.
From a global viewpoint, the price rise of natural resources like crude oil, natural gas and coal accelerated by Russian invasion to Ukraine in February has been stopped, and a downward trend can be seen.
The background is that the recession has intensified and the demand has been falling in the world. The price of wheat is also stable after the entry into force of the transport agreement. On the other hand, due to a labor shortage rising labor costs are a major factor of inflation in developed countries now. Therefore, some people are concerned about the price rise during a recession, stagflation, next year.

■A serious and protracted recession in China:
A particular concern in global economy is Chinese economy. Private ownership of land is not permitted in China. Local government had collected investment funds by using the trade of surface rights as leverage, and led to its economic development. However, local government debt has ballooned due to a real estate recession, and moreover, due to the failure of the zero-Covid policy and underlying declining birthrate and aging population brought by “one-child policy”, “getting old before getting rich” is becoming a reality. In addition, adverse winds against China are becoming stronger, such as inefficiency by the policy focusing on state-owned enterprises rather than private enterprises, tightening control of high-tech companies, wariness of Chinese hegemonism and tightening export controls rising in developed countries, and so on. “Surpassing the United States in GDP in 2028” forecasted in 2020 is a very impossible situation. The downturn in the Chinese economy is also a negative factor for global economic development.

≪P.S.≫ In Japan, a labor shortage is becoming apparent mainly in non-manufacturing industries due to relaxation of regulations accompanying corona countermeasures. The service industry accounts for about 70 % of employed workers in Japan. Shortage of drivers and aging are going on concurrently in the trucking industry in which I worked, too. The ratio of job openings to job applicants of this industry in October was 2.46 times, and the increase is for 4 consecutive months since July this year. What essential workers including truck drivers have in common is long working hours and low wages compared to the public standard. Therefore, it becomes an occupation shunned by young people. Some consigners have anachronism where they still use “free shipping” for promotions. At least, it should be about “cost and freight price” or “shipping fee is born by us”. Otherwise, the driver’s hard work is not rewarded. On the other hand, the trucking industry needs “structural reform” to amend excessive competition.

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