Re: A news item and subject which I just want to check out (118) December 22, 2023

 There are only 10 days left this year, and the original winter-type climate has arrived and cold days have continued. We have entered the year-end and New Year’s shopping season, and the trend of increased travel and eating out consumption is observed compared to before new coronavirus pandemic. The travel cost is projected to reach an all-time high, and it seems that Tokaido Shinkansen will also operate the largest number of trains ever. It seems that foot traffic has returned to hotels and department stores, and the reservation count of Japanese style pub in December is also performing well. But the labor shortage is getting more severe and temporary staffing fee and part-time wage are on the rise. The surge in raw material prices and labor costs has led to an increase in bankruptcies. The future trajectory of the economy hinges on the outcome of next year’s spring wage negotiations. It seems to me that the Bank of Japan also would like to see a little more about that on the condition of the transition from a zero-interest rate policy.

■■What I have thought and focused on recently:
■War in Ukraine in the future, parliamentary election results in Hong Kong and presidential election in Taiwan:
It will soon be two years since Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, 2022. Armed forces of Ukraine have been offensive in recent months, but it seems to me that the war situation is a stalemate of back-and-forth. Together with the arrival of severe winter, a large-scale operation seems to become impossible. Under such military situation, it is said that the morale for territorial recovery of armed forces and citizens of Ukraine remains high.
Under such circumstances, what I am concerned is that the phenomenon of support fatigue is spreading across Western countries. It is connecting to the delay and reduction in military support to Ukraine. In particular, the United States that has contributed about 4 trillion yen protrusively is in a situation where the future support is uncertain due to domestic political turmoil. There may be differences in the position of each country, but if this goes on, it might lead to making Putin happy. When I look at such series of movements, I don’t think that the terrorist attack to Israel by Hamas is accidental, and it seems to me that there was a conspiracy and plan of Russia to partition or divide international public opinion and military support including the United States by shifting the world’s attention from being solely focused on Ukraine to the Middle East.
On the other hand, in the election of ward council member equivalent to local assembly in Hong Kong held on December 10, pro-China group had a near monopoly under lowest voter turnout (27.5 %) since the handover to China. It can be said that the democratization movement in Hong Kong was effectively suppressed by this. I feel like everything is going according to the Chinese government’s wishes and Hong Kong people are becoming giving up atmosphere.
And my next concern is presidential election in Taiwan held on January 13 next year once in four years. At this time of year, the New Year’s mood still lingers in Japan, but the New Year in Taiwan is Lunar New Year. Incidentally, it is February 10 next year with 8 consecutive holidays. At present, Mr. Lai Ching-te aiming to succeed President Tsai of Democratic Progressing Party which is the ruling party is leading now, but Mr. Hou Yu-ih of Chinese National Party which is main opposition party and Pro-Chinese is catching up strongly. About 70 % of Taiwanese people are wanting to maintain “the status quo” as “the ideal way of the country”. However, in fact, they are caught in the whirlpool of the US-China confrontation over “Taiwan unification”. The concern here is that China is increasing information war or false information and military pressure in various forms to prevent the emergence of a strongly independent government. On top of that, how do Taiwanese people feel about severe battle and brutal massacre in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip and hardline measures of Chinese government that contained democratization in Hong Kong? In addition, it is not surprising that doubts about “whether the United States will really help in the event of a war between China and Taiwan” arise due to recent confusion of politics and public opinion in the United States. These lead to feeling of helplessness and war-weariness, and the possibility of bringing victory to Chinese National Party which is Pro-Chinese increases. The worst case for Western countries is that stance on China of Taiwanese government and people changes, in other words, the current regime collapses from within. If that is the case, other countries can’t interfere. This is a very serious problem for both geopolitics of Asia and national security in Japan.

■Presidential election in the United States and international situation:
Presidential election in the United States will be held on November 5 next year. In the current situation, there is a possibility that former President Trump will make a comeback, even though it is something that it can’t be considered by the common sense of Japanese society. If he is reelected, the United States will strengthen protectionism and isolationism even more. Putin will be happy about it, but I hear that European countries are considering measures thinking this as the biggest risk. The role of conversing directly with the president or head of state of another country is the duty of top of each country. In Japan, this role belongs to the Prime Minister. In this regard, former Prime Minister Abe who could overlook global affairs and fully demonstrate the power of diplomacy is no longer in this world. The outcome of presidential election in the United States is also a very serious matter for the future of Japan.
The political dynamics of the world is extremely ruthless, and “justice lies not in winning, but in being the winner”. It was said that “winners are always right and losers are always in the wrong” even in Japan. It is impossible that “you could find victory in defeat”. And as long as “humanity is a living organism called a human being”, conflict and war over race, religion and territory will never disappear from the face of the planet. In current international situation, unfortunately, absolute monarchy or totalitarian state strengthening unity seems to be stronger than liberalism state or democratic camp where disruption of step is seen. In such situation, political system in Japan is in a drifting state now. The consciousness level of the people is also close to a state of “peace senility”. I wonder if Japan can deal with international situation being increasingly chaotic in this state.

■A display of “free shipping” which is unique in the world:
After considering countermeasures about a display of “free shipping” of mail order site, Consumer Affairs Agency has announced the vendor-leaning conclusion that “regulations on the display itself are forgone and voluntary response is required”. It is a look that claims from the mail order company that “please indicate reasonable grounds that a display of free shipping obstructs proper fare collection” were taken into account. It is a very anachronistic idea, isn’t it? Because other industry is striving for creativity and originality beyond the boundaries of the same industry about SCM such as shipping system in order to prepare shortage of drivers arising from 2024 problem.
Then I would like to ask distributor side. In reality, a fare exists and they pay for it and pass on the selling price to the buyer. In other words, the fare payment really exists. Nevertheless, does displaying “free shipping” constitute a “misrepresentation” aiming for sales promotion by cultivating a sense of great deal? I am not saying that “you are deceiving consumers”.
The debate follows parallel lines, but I think proper compromise might be that “the fare will be borne by us” or “the fare is included in the price”. If all sales-related businesses keep pace, there should be no issue.

■■The year-end greetings:
This is the last Blog stream this year, and I will restart on Friday, January 5 next year. I look forward to your continued patronage in the future.
I would like to express my sincere thanks for your support this year, and please take good care of yourself in these times. I sincerely wish you a happy year-end and New Year.

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