Re: A news item and subject which I just want to check out (76) January 20, 2023

Looking back over this week, Monday, January 15 was exactly three years after new coronavirus was confirmed for the first time in Japan. I feel like it has been three years now, but whether it is good or bad, when we are under the eighth wave, I feel like “With Corona” is getting established. I mean the world and Japan have become accustomed to this pandemic or resistive force has been created. In Japan, changes from class 2 to class 5 in infectious diseases act will be considered soon, and it seems that it will be gradually treated the same as common seasonal influenza.
And January 17 was 28 years after the Great Hansin Awaji earthquake which took lives of 6,434 people. On the day of the disaster, I was on a business trip to Beijing. I returned to Japan two days later, and when I looked at Kobe, the stricken area, from the plane just before landing in Kansai airport, a lot of black smokes rose to the sky like a signal fire. And one week after the earthquake I went to the stricken area, and it was such a devastation that I wonder what kind of force was at work, and I felt the fear of nature again.
And after that, the Great East Japan earthquake occurred 12 years ago, and in addition to earthquake and tsunami, as a secondary disaster, radioactive contamination by Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant accident added, and it was a catastrophe. And a big earthquake also occurred in Kumamoto 7 years ago, and great damage was caused. And this year is the 100th anniversary of the milestone since the Great Kanto earthquake which caused 100 thousand of the dead and missing.
Damage estimate by upcoming earthquake directly beneath the capital and Nankai megathrust earthquake is widely talked about. And the possibility of Mt. Fuji eruption is also widely known by thinking from the past history.
Like this, I have to say that Japan is the largest country with frequent natural disasters in the world. Every Big earthquake which we have experienced so far showed power far beyond human power. Therefore, in conclusion, I think that we don’t fight directly against the nature and should aim for a path to respect and “co-exist” with the power of the nature. For instance, excessive concentration in Tokyo today is the biggest risk for Japan from a variety of viewpoints such as politics, economy, security, culture, academic and so on, and then it should be corrected, and is an issue to think about seriously towards balanced development of national land.

■■Today’s subject is China.
■First visit to China:
I was born in the city of Shanghai, the Republic of China at that time in 1942, the midst of the Pacific War, because my father was a representative of Japanese trading company. I came back to Japan when I was about one year old and have no memories of Shanghai. After that, the first time I really visited China was the time when I participated in the autumn Guangzhou fair in November 1976, at the age of 34. It was the year when the Cultural Revolution, which had blown widely for ten years, ended, and the time when I visited the site was shortly after the Gang of Four who led this political power struggle including Jiang Qing, the late Mrs. Mao Zedong, was arrested. In celebration of it, firecrackers blared in the city, and people were happy to march. China was really poor at that time, and men’s attire was Mao suit or military uniform and women’s apparel was blue pants with white smock. And 1976 was a year of violence when a big earthquake, which caused casualties of estimated 400 thousand in Tangshan, Hebei Province, occurred, and there was tension between China and the Soviet Union over borders.
■Slowing economic growth in China:
In China, under the late President Deng Xiaoping, reform and opening-up policy had started in earnest since 1978. In the middle of this policy, the Tiananmen Square incident occurred in June 1989, but joining the WTO in December 2001 was a major turning point and led to a great economic leap by expansion of trade. And China surpassed Japan in terms of GDP in 2010 and is now about four times as many as Japan and has the second largest economy in the world after the United States. China contribution to global economic growth reached 39 % on an average from 2013 to 2021, and significantly surpassed 19 % in the United States, 1 % in Japan, and 26 % in G7 total.
After that, about more than 10 % per annum economic growth had continued. However, after introducing zero-Covid policy or city-wide lockdown in response to the spread of coronavirus infection three years ago, the movement of people had been severely restricted and economic activity had been stagnant. Therefore, the real economic growth rate from October to December last year dropped to 2.9% year-on-year, and the real economic growth in 2022 was 3.0 % and far below government target “around 5.5 %”.
■The population in China started to decline:
The population decline in China is becoming apparent as declining birthrate and aging population, due to “the one-child policy” implemented from 2009 to 2014. The population in 2022 was below the end of the previous year for the first time in 61 years, and it seems that China will give up the top position to India this year. Incidentally, total population of mainland China excluding foreigners is 1.41145 billion and decreased by 0.65 million compared to the previous year.
According to the estimation by the Nikkei, working-age population will decrease by 67 million (9 %) in the next 10 years. On the other hand, aging does not stop. The percentage share of population over 60 years old was 19.8 % and increased by 5.6 % in the last ten years. Incidentally, the percentage share of population over 60 years old in Japan is 29.1 % in 2021, and No.1 in the world.
And the number of births was 9.56 million decreased by 1.06 million compared to the previous year, and less than 10 million for the first time since 1997 on record. Nevertheless, comparing with the present situation in Japan where the number of births will be less than 0.8 million, it is 12 times as large as this. Japan needs to consider how to accept and deal with such differences in the state of the nation.

≪P.S.≫ National qualification exam necessary for level 4 flying maneuvers, where drones can fly automatically above residential area and so on even if they are invisible to the person who maneuvers them, was conducted for the first time on January 16. Drones are used in combat in the battlefield like Ukraine and so on. But safety comes first for consumers, and then in order to actually operate them, it is necessary to prepare the legal aspects in addition to technical aspects. Recently, when someone withdraws cash from an ATM, I have not seen anyone recount cash. An automatic driving is the same. If reliability is not guaranteed to that level, widespread use will be limited.

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