SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

  • Xie Zhihai “COVID-19 and World Economy”

    COVID-19 is steadily going to spread in worldwide scale and we cannot see any prospect of convergence. According to the totaling by John Hopkins University, on May 4, 2020, the number of infected people shows over 3.48million and the number of deaths became 240 thousand. The world economy has been affected seriously by COVID-19. It is now clear that an impact by COVID-19 exceeds the “Oil Shock” or so-called the “Lehman Shock” (2006 financial crisis) and we call it the “Corona Shock”.  International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced on April 4 that the world economic growth rate of the year 2020 is (-) 3.0% compared with the previous year. JP Morgan Chase & Co. predicted also that world economy will suffer loss of five trillion dollars in the next two years. This figure is equal to the Japanese GDP. According to other data, many countries in the world show a serious fall in GDP in the first quarter of 2020.  For example, (-) 6.85% in China and (-) 4.8%, (-) 3.8%, (-) 3.4% in America, the Euro zone and Japan accordingly.    Medical experts point out that it will take at least one year to converge COVID-19. It means it will take one year or more to recover economies.  Then, how does each country overcome the economic crisis caused by the corona shock?Almost all the major countries in the world are taking financial relief measures on a big scale. But there are questions whether such relief measures are effective or not. Relief measures tend to focus on the prevention of cooling down of consumptions at this moment, but recoveries in the production fields may be more important.  At the time of the Lehman shock, financial fields have been damaged at first and then the real economy was affected. In case of corona shock, the first damage was the real economy.  It may be more difficult to recover from corona shock than that from the Lehman shock.  We are now in the back current of the globalization and protectionism in the world which came from threats of corona shock. And those phenomena may continue for the time being. We cannot expect a V-shaped recovery in economy even if COVID-19 converge.  In fact, OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) warned that it would take a few years for the world economy to recover from the pandemic of the new coronavirus.  Then, how about the Japanese economy? On April 27, the Bank of Japan announced that the growth rate of Japanese economy of the fiscal year 2020 would be minus 3~5%. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been expected as a catalyst for the Japanese economy, but they have been postponed due to the new coronavirus. According to the estimate by the specialist, this postponement will result in an economic loss of about 640 billion yen. Even if the Olympic game would be held in summer 2021, the numbers of foreign visitors to Japan would be lower than originally expected. Whether or not the inbound at that time can save the Japanese economy is still uncertain.      However, we cannot say that everything by corona shock has negative for the world economy. There are at least four positive aspects points. 1)We can see illogical phenomena in the field of supply chains of the shortage of relief supplies such as masks. In global economies, it is now urgent to rebuild supply chains. As Japan has relied on China too much in the field of supply of daily necessities or goods, it becomes difficult to get when it comes to the crunch. This is what we learned this time. For example, Japan has imported 80% of masks from China. Japan, as a big country of “hay fevers”, had a big demand for masks and should have produced in Japan more. 2)Corona shock made us revolutionize our working styles in world wide. When many people worked from homes, they realized that there was a lot of useless meetings. Such works shall be selected hereafter. After convergence of COVID-19, works from homes or shorten the time of works should be left partly. For example, it will be unnecessary to keep the shops open. Convenience stores or family restaurants, which open 24hours should be reviewed. When many people work from homes and shorten their working time, congestions at public transportations would be eased. 3)Corona shock will accelerate new technical innovations. In fact, the advancement of IT will continue in various fields, such as the arrival of 5G will move ahead of schedule due to the influence of corona. For example, “On-line classes” or “video conferences” became common, and IT enterprises in America, such as “Zoom”, have made rapid progress. There were reports in America that robots are doing very good jobs in delivering foods and goods. 4)Finally, I think corona shock made us consider how globalization should be. When we compared the epidemics of infectious diseases in the past, COVID-19 this time has spread very fast due to globalization. On the other hand, because of globalization, countries can quickly share information, technology, experience and supplies, which is useful for corona countermeasures. Globalization will not be withdrawn due to corona shock, but rather, globalization will be further promoted through the improvement of various systems and strengthening of cooperation.  SGRA Kawaraban 632 in Japanese (Original)  Xie Zhihai / Associated Professor of Kyoai Gakuen University  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • Nahed ALMEREE “COVID-19 and Human Societies”

     The crisis of virus diseases, which is known as “COVID-19” instantly, gave us new social rules like “isolation policy” or “social distances” for the sake of prevention of infection or to prevent possible spread of infections. Above all, traditional social communication style for expressing our acceptance or supporting others, such as physical touching like patting shoulders, shaking hands, hugging each other and kissing, gave us big changes. Forms of greetings, which were built for centuries to show habits or traditions of intimacies, are different depend of countries. In the Arabian worlds, shaking hands and kissing is the most important style of greetings. Particularly, in the way of greetings, the significance of kissing depends according to the district of on the Arabian countries. For example, in the countries bordering of Syria and Egypt, people kiss on foreheads,cheeks, shoulders and the back of hands. Adding to those styles, they touch on noses also at the countries in the Arabian Peninsula. In the Moroccan area countries, they kiss both the palm and the back of hands. There are variety of meanings of all these forms of greetings. In some Arabian countries, when relatives visit their homes and if they do not kiss on cheeks by hugging each other, they are thought to be impolite. There are quite a few people who kiss on cheeks twice or thrice.   People who live around the Mediterranean Seas understands such cultural varieties among each other. It is no wonder that people, who live alongside the Atlantic Ocean, would be confused how to greet when they conclude their negotiations, agreements or treaties. However, they agree to conclude through handshaking. Everybody understand that they have obligations to respect cultural peculiarities which are different depending on areas. When people go to foreign countries for the first time, they can check the habits or traditions of visiting countries to avoid misunderstandings or embarrassments. When I was in Syria, some Japanese, who has felt sick first for kissing, became accustomed to kiss intimate friends.  However, COVID-19 is insensitive in respect of cultures under superiority of public securities. Under prevention of spread of infection, the point is group-oriented responsibilities. It is not social common-sense nor individual rights or duties.          Until the time when such new social styles become new common sense, it might be neglected. But, such styles would become normal social style which produce next generations and be called as customs or traditions.  Deliberate establishment of new social styles should be based on relative and scientific values. Such values should be based on social consent and support which is measurable and interpretable. In case of virus, however, which cannot be seen by human eyes and attack human beings indiscriminately, decisive judgement should be made by medical specialists, not by influential leaders nor politicians.  In the “after-corona world”, expression of our feelings physically or physical communications between human beings or human-to-any objects may not be acceptable.  It may be necessary for ourselves to keep certain safe distance between human beings and any objects. Corona forced us to keep “social distance”. Social distance does not mean discontinuation of social or individual communications by human beings. Rather, I think corona has strengthened our social communications and made us reconsider style of communication and recognize its importance. And, corona has made us to strengthen our interests in helping others to prevent infections and spread its knowledge. It made us reevaluate the importance of thoughtfulness for others. We came to know limitation of ourselves by corona and realized that we are just social living things which ask for existence, good health, safe and rich life. In order to establish “after-Corona world”, we have to study starting from “social distance” and review our relations between foods and good health, reconsideration of priorities of expenditures on the individual, government or national levels.         SGRA Kawaraban 631in Japanese (Original)  Nahed ALMEREE / 2019 Raccoon (Syria) Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • John Chuan-Tion Lim “Why did Taiwan succeed in prevention of epidemics, in comparison with Hong Kong?”

    Amid spreading of COVID-19 in the world, Taiwan is being highly appreciated for crisis management and preventive measures of infections not only in the East Asia but also the world. In this article, I focus on the cases of Taiwan and Hong Kong and analyze how Taiwan succeeded in achieving these results and how Hong Kong can be compared with Taiwan.  Taiwan’s advantage: Expertise and quickness. According to the data of Johns Hopkins University dated April 2, the number of infected persons of COVID-19 in the East Asia region is 82,381 in China (main land), 765 in Hong Kong, and 329 in Taiwan. The number 329 of Taiwan is the smallest among “Asian 4 dragons” (9,976 in Korea and 1,000 in Singapore). Even in Japan, where the Taiwanese people often learn from, the number of infected people has already exceeded 2,384, and this time Japan is behind Taiwan.  Why is Taiwan able to achieve outstanding results in this “quarantine competition” of the world this time? I dare to say that Taiwan won the race over other countries by “quickness” not by “luck”. This keyword is due not only to the lessons learned from SARS in 2003, but also to the accumulation of expertise and the public opinion.  The economy in Taiwan has been poor for many years, and the GDP per capita and the salary level of experts have been far below those of other members of “Asia 4 Dragons,” South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore. However, the experts in Taiwan have a high level of knowledge on average, and the overall evaluation of public services is as good as that of Japan. And the level of expertise for medical and public health are also evaluated highly in the field of international societies. “The Health Care Index of 2020” which was announced on February 9, 2020 shows Taiwan continues to maintain the top spot in the world ranking with 86.71 points followed by Korea in the second place and Japan in the third place. Incidentally, Hong Kong rank in 14th position and China (main land) rank in the 16th position. I think such high level of expertise in Taiwan’s medical and epidemics field also plays an important role in accurately responding to the current epidemic of COVID-19.  The "quickness" of the Taiwanese government's reaction can be seen in the process of handling the first fatal case in Taiwan on February 16th of this year. A taxi driver was initially diagnosed with severe flu, but a sensitive physician sent him to an isolation ward based on his professional judgement. The patient was subsequently confirmed to have been confirmed with COVID-19 infection because the Taiwan Department of Hospital had been retroactively examining cases reported as severe influenza cases.  Due to the painful lessons of SARS (2003) in Taiwan, they have been practicing seminars periodically every year at each hospitals for the past few years. In this pandemic circumstance, discussions on various treatment measures including adjustment and effective management of mask production quantity, planned maintenance of supply network, distribution of manpower of frontline medical personnel, etc. has been advanced in a timely manner. After the first death, the Taiwan Central Epidemic Control Center (Taiwan Central Infectious Diseases Control Center) immediately announced the response principle of the city surveillance report and expanded the front line of the epidemic prevention system to the end of societies.  In addition, Taiwan's “quickness” of reaction may be related to Taiwan's keen and swift response to the will and its changes as the most complete democratic Chinese region. It can also be said that this is in sharp contrasts to the Hong Kong Government which has been criticized for their delays in the current epidemic.  “Slowness” of Hong Kong: Masks and “Restriction of the Border Entry” We observed the “Confusion over masks” everywhere in the world after the epidemics. Taiwan and Hong Kong are also not an exception. For example, From the end of January, there were long queues of people looking for masks everywhere in Hong Kong. There were even elderly people lined up until midnight, but the Hong Kong Special Zone government finally admitted that it had been stockpiling 10 million masks all the time and decided to put it on demand in the medical field. It was not possible to respond promptly and temporarily release the inventory of masks.  Instead, in Taiwan, people can get minimum quantities of masks if they go to pharmacies  with health insurance cards. It is not necessary to line up in a long queue. Along with the development of IT in Taiwan, Minister Andrey Tang, Taiwan Executive Yuan (行政院)  designed “Mask supply information” application which enables Taiwanese People to search and check the stock status of masks at any pharmacy online. Eventually, it became possible to reduce the probability of not being able to buy a mask. This has received a great deal of praise from Japanese public opinion and IT fields.  In Taiwan, there is a public monitoring where the government must work by “120% power” and no oversight is allowed. On January 22, one day before declaration of lockout by the Wuhan Government in China, Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen had already launched its quarantine system and was ready to put in under high alert. Minister Chen Shih-chung was appointed to the Commander of the Taiwan Center for Diseases Control (CDC) and he directed for day and night at the front line. During the operation, he not only summoned scholars and experts immediately, but also carried out the quarantine operation by successfully coordinating the coordination of the various departments of the government and taking the lead of himself continuously every day. Premier Su Tseng-chen declared strictly that “if we need human resources, we will supply human resources, and if we need funds, we will provide funds. If there is a break in the quarantine network, we will strictly deal with it”. In addition to the strict declaration, he immediately created an emergency special budget of 60 billion New Taiwanese Yuan and proposed measures to support industries such as transportations, domestic demands, agricultural and fisheries that will be suffered from the corona infections.  Since the government seriously tackled the fake “quick” production without tampering with it, the epidemic of COVID-19 in Taiwan was successfully controlled to a certain degree in the early stage, Taiwan was able to cope with the changing situation with the spare power without falling into the situation where manpower and resources had to be fully devoted to emergency treatment (for critically ill patients). This is how Taiwan has been relatively successful in this epidemic, and its excellent performance is reflected in its high public support.    How should Hong Kong learn from Taiwan? According to a public opinion poll released by TVBS (Taiwan Radio Satellite Television) on February 13, in response to the Taiwanese government's prevention of epidemics, the satisfaction rate of President Cai Ing-wen has risen to 54%, which is the highest level since her inauguration. Satisfaction degree for Premier Su Tseng-chen was 52%. For Minister Chen Shih-chung, Minister of Sanitation and Welfare, who directed day and night at front line, marked 82%. In addition, 71% also for the total performance by the government against corona epidemics and the figure 83%, which people trusted for measures and ability of the government, showed the satisfaction of the people. There is a considerable difference in public opinions of Taiwan and HK. According to public opinion poll by HK Public Opinion Research Institute on February 14, dissatisfaction shown by HK people showed 84%. They showed dissatisfaction to the measure against corona epidemics by Chief Executive, Carrie Law Chen Yuet-ngor.  Besides their dissatisfaction with Carrie Law management, mentioned above, HK people were dissatisfied with “blockade” of the border. After Wuhan was locked down on January 23, in order to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, each country continued to move out of its own country, restrict entry, and stop air traffic to and from China. As Hong Kong is adjacent to the Main Land China. So, everybody in Hong Kong, either HK Democrats or pro-establishment camp, requested “blockade”. It is because epidemic in Hong Kong cannot be controlled by incoming of people from main land. However, Chief Executive did not accept it expressing that “blockade” means “discrimination” using “Guideline” of WHO (World Hospital Authority).  According to the survey data released by the Hong Kong Institute of Civil Affairs on January 31, more than 80% of Hong Kong people say that the government should "completely prohibit entry".  Under these circumstances, the Hong Kong Medical Office labor union "Members and Workers' Line" had a dialogue with the government complaining of "total entry prohibition", but after this dialogue failed, a strike was launched on February 3rd. In contrast, Chief Executive, Carrie Law finally accepted her defeat. As a result, the airports and all ports were closed on 8th February. The passengers entering Hong Kong from the mainland shall be quarantined. Finally, the medical workers finally ended the strike by calling for a new policy of isolation in their home or other facilities.  Taiwan made a brilliant success in prevention of epidemics because they could regulate production and supply of masks, improve medical system and prevent split of prevention of epidemics. This would also be proof that Taiwan's democratic system is gradually maturing. I think Hong Kong needs to openly learn about Taiwan's crisis management capabilities and professional response capabilities in the prevention of epidemics. How can we learn a democratic mechanism that is backed by such specialized knowledge and can react sharply to the situation? Hong Kong have to carry out the “Double Election” (election for Chief Executive and Legislative Council) basing on Hong Kong Basic Law. There would be “no choice”.      SGRA Kawaraban 626 in Japanese (Original)  John_Chuan-Tiong_Lim / Researcher of Japan Research Center (Taiwan), Head of Japan Research Center (Wuhan)      Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • John Chuan-Tiong Lim “Isolated Taiwan” got “Complete Victory” over Tedros”

    On April 8, Tedros Adhanam, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) has made unprecedented criticism against Taiwan at a press briefing, in a public place. He criticized that Taiwan criticized him personally and made racial discrimination. In December last year, Taiwan has warned possibility of “human-to-human” infection of coronavirus, but the WHO ignored it. World opinion doubted the WHO’s ignorance and became complicated that led to “Unexpected War” between “Tedros vs. Taiwan”.   At this “Unequal War”, which Tedros made positively, he lacked in strategic thought and effective measures. On the other hand, Taiwan maneuvered cleverly utilizing Tedros’s mistake (turning a disadvantage into an advantage) and has turned to worldwide appealing offensively saying “Taiwan_Can_Help (the world)” utilizing their successful experience in prevention of epidemics. They revealed themselves on the worldwide stage most for the last several decades. At the pandemic time, their excellence in prevention of epidemics were watched with keen interest by the rest of the world. They have been trying to open the door of the WHO and succeeded in making up favorable circumstances of the world opinion.  ” Four Strategic Mistakes” by Tedros in his criticism against TaiwanNeedless to say, WHO is the most important international organization amid pandemic of COVID-19. Director Tedros expressed his “pro-China” opinion many times at the early stage of the epidemics. We can say that his “wrong judgement” on epidemics were very remarkable and he has made denial statements about human-to-human infection on January 14. It goes without saying that he has been feeling a lot of pressure from such criticism of international opinions.  It is easy to understand that Tedros has tried his counter attack at the WHO press briefing because he could not endure any more. Critical international opinions toward him were piling up gradually and he made a lot of mistakes, at his problem settings, in contents, object, timing and judgement of situations which successful strategists might not make. He also lost his supports which take criticism from international opinions. On the contrary, he could not get possible effect but has given a chance of “a come-from-behind victory” to Taiwan.  How did Tedros make mistakes concretely?1) There is no evidence in his criticism. In any kind of “counterattack”, the most basic counter measure is an argument based on ample evidence. Tedros just censured “everything came from Taiwan” saying “insult myself”, “call me “colored” using discriminative saying”. Tedros also said “the Foreign Department of Taiwan know some people made personal attack on myself and do not deny it”. But, he did not show any evidence. 2) His saying was unsuitable for such occasion. He mixed up public and private matters and utilized public organization for his private use. Actually, he began to talk suddenly at the usual WHO press briefing about personal attack against him. It gave the world an impression that he lost an air of dignity as a leader of international organization. 3) He mistook the timing also. In March, COVID-19 pandemic has spread in America and Europe day by day. Under such circumstances, dissatisfaction in the world against mistakes by Tedros is getting worse and worse. When Tedros criticized Taiwan by name, signature-collection campaign on inter-net for his resignation marked 750,000. Such movement cannot be said always the one because of the fact Taiwan took initiative. It is because Tedros has started his “counterattack” under disadvantageous situation for him. We can say it was possible to predict from the beginning. 4) Tedros made a mistake also in selection of target. Target of his counter attack was neither an individual nor an organization. Not a concrete case. His target was Taiwan itself as a political substance. Moreover, the reason of criticism was just “human discrimination” and it was very ambiguous. He has just wanted to recover the support of international opinions and the strategy was planned by himself and small group around him. But the target was the whole society. It was not impossible to predict such strong “counterattack”, if they insist such opinions under the poor grounds and evidences.  As expected, “counterattack” toward Tedros was a roar of anger “anti-Tedros” from the whole Taiwan and such roar became a beginning of the union of ruling parties, “Democratic Progressive Party” and opposition party “National Party “in Taiwan, toward the other countries in the world. And all the people, not only Taiwanese but foreign students in Taiwan also, protested under united efforts against criticism by Tedros which is “not truth”.  How did Taiwan get “complete victory” turning a disadvantage into an advantage?”At that time, Taiwan has been achieving good results in prevention of epidemics and their medical technologies and innovation has been evaluated highly internationally. Democratic Progressive Party, taking this good chance, launched the “Taiwan_Can_Help” campaign and strengthened their international presence.  Foreign Department of Taiwan protested to Tedros immediately saying that “his criticism is buck-passing scape goating too much and he is irresponsible”. Taiwan President Ts’ai Ing_wen issued her statement on her Facebook that “Taiwan oppose any style of discriminations. We, Taiwanese, has been excluded in any style of international organization for a long time. So, we can understand people’s feelings which are discriminated and isolated better than anybody else. “It is just “turning a disadvantage into an advantage”. She also said that Taiwan want to shorten a distance between the WHO and Taiwan and expressed to Tedros to visit Taiwan by all means. In her statement, she also told, how Taiwan in the midst of being discriminated and isolated, has made efforts to keep their progress and contributed to international societies. National Party issued also their statement that the WHO leader should not blame, under groundless reasoning for it, the cause of criticism toward the WHO on Taiwan.  Amid a roar of “Anti-Tedros” by Taiwanese, fund-raising campaign “Letters to the World by Taiwanese”, by a You Tuber and a designer, has being attracted attention of the world. This campaign was carried on the New York Times first after “Criticism on Taiwan” by Tedros. The target amount by this campaign was NT$400,000. But it has reached to NT$1,900,000 immediately within fifteen hours after starting. This protest advertising was carried on the New York Times on April 14 and its message was “Who_can_help? Taiwan!” Taiwan emphasized that “when we were isolated, we chose unity”.  On April 17, when Taiwan donated face masks and other prevention goods to many countries, U.S. President Donald Trump criticized China again that China concealed the data of spread of the COVID-19 infection. He also pointed out that the WHO ignored the warning “human-to human infection” by Taiwan, which was made at the end of December, last year. In China, which should be the biggest supporter of Tedros, at that time, African people were receiving racial discrimination in Wuhan, China. Colored people in this area, regardless of being infected or not, were forced to be isolated. And, their passports were confiscated, and they were turned out of their homes or hotels sometimes. Under such circumstances, a lot of countries in Africa recalled their ambassadors to China and sent officials letters to Wang Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of China. In those letters, they were watching closely on such circumstances and asked his explanation.   On the other hand, the world recognized that Taiwan is very friendly to foreigners. Even if the relations between China and Taiwan seems to be unfriendly, all the students or tourists from main land evaluated friendly attitudes and politeness of Taiwan society. Under such circumstances, Tedros directed his criticism toward Taiwan thoughtlessly by reason of “racial discrimination”. He did not anticipate repulsion would spread widely because Taiwan is not the member of the WHO, which shall be approved by the United Nations and lack in international positions. Tedros got the contrary effect.  Mistakes in the judgement by Tedros “Taiwan-criticism” resulted in big interests in Taiwan by the worldwide opinion. At present, European countries and Japan are expressing their supports that Taiwan can attend, as an observer, on the WHO general meeting in this May. Under such adversities, WHO had to evaluate officially on a press briefing on April 18, that Taiwan has made successful results in prevention of epidemics.  It all depends on an attitude of Beijing whether Taiwan can participate in the WHO.Confused fight between Tedros and Taiwan this time gave Taiwan, which has been isolated from international societies for a long time because of sovereignty of China, a good timing of getting international interests and supports. From this reasoning, we can say Taiwan has got “Complete Victory”.  SGRA Kawaraban 630 in Japanese (Original)  John_Chuan-Tiong_Lim / Researcher of Japan Research Center (Taiwan), Head of Japan Research Center (Wuhan)   Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • Sim Choon KIat “And, I transformed myself into Sterilization Geek!”

    When I come back to my house from university, supermarket or walk, I straightly go to the bathroom, gargle earnestly and wash my hands completely with hand soap. After sterilizing my hands, I put an antibacterial sanitary disposable plastic bag in my hand and return outside again to clean all the places and stuffs that I have touched. I sterilize all the germs, including good and bad bacteria without expression by using an absorbent cotton with antiseptic solution starting from digital number pad and its cover, handle of entrance door, electric switches, faucet of bathroom etc.  Then I sterilize my wallet, coin purse, keys and smartphone from my pocket. Now, even if I commit a crime, I'm confident that all the fingerprints and evidence left on the scene will be erased cleanly and never caught. I became an indiscriminate sterilizer now. I transformed into a sterilization geek now.  Till last month, I was laughing and chilling at people who were anti-bacterial and sterilizing anything. I have looked down on such people saying: “Are you tired of your fastidiousness?” “If you are aseptic, your immunity will be weakened and weakened, and you will become a Neuroses soon!” I was a little silly in my mind. However, life is interesting, and I became such “small fool” in myself now. Since Coronavirus is more cunning, worse and poor-quality opponent than a bacterium. So, it must be destroyed completely with zero-tolerance.  In order to prevent myself from being infected, and especially not to infect other people, we have to declare the war against all the germs. Even though we know that almost all the bacteria are not bad, but we must eradicate them on the pretext of extermination of germs. It’s like a war by between human beings. Especially in Japan, where the number of inspections is very few and cases of unknown transmission routes are very large, it will not be strange for anyone to be infected in anytime at any place. In a sense, it is not different from the war on terrorism. Since I have to forestall against germs and sterilize them, I had no choice to transform myself into “sterilization geek”.  As I often talk about the withdrawal problems in my university lectures, I have transformed myself into “withdrawal in my home”. I can understand feelings of others, who withdraw into their homes, through my experience of their withdrawal. They cannot go out despite they like to go out. They cannot go anywhere despite there are places where they want to visit. They cannot meet anybody despite there are people whom they like to meet. I could realize the state of impatient or uneasy mind. Even though the sunlight is pouring outside, we have to refrain ourselves from going out. This made me remember the lyrics of an old song “sigh again despite we are in spring…”.    A Japanese word “jishuku” (self-restraint) in dictionary means “to refrain from what you say and do willingly”, It is very ambiguous and awkward. It is up to us whether we are willing to refrain or not as there is no legal enforcement. It is not incomprehensible if there would be any person who says, “As we are in beautiful spring, let us go out!” I personally think that there is a lack of some sense of tension or crisis in Japan. This is big difference from other countries.  We are told that the number of people in the street in downtown, like Shinjuku, Shibuya and Ginza, decreased markedly. They restrained themselves from going out on their own discipline regardless of penalties like foreign countries. However, on the contrary, local shopping streets became busy. And, “shops for necessities of life” in super markets or home centers become amusement parks for children. I fully understand the feeling of parents who like to take their children out as they are not going to school. However, as an indiscriminate sterilizer, it is my honest feeling “Is Japan all right?” The decrease in the number of people who commute to work in the morning has not reached the target and looking at the line in front of the cash register in the supermarket, social distancing is not properly maintained as in overseas. I sigh again deeply saying “Is it really all right in Japan?”    I think their easygoing and non-cautious attitude arose from the attitude of leaders at questions and answers in the Diet where they read manuscripts by their monotonous voices. Such style of leaders’ speeches doesn’t reach people’s minds and hearts, such as other people's affairs, has been featured in the media of my country, Singapore, and is conspicuously noticeable in the current world situation. It's no wonder that you get lots of worried e-mails from your friends in Singapore every time the diet release or issue (“hasshutu” in Japanese) a monotonous declaration that are read hanging their heads. Are there anything that can be done about such “red-tape” word like “hasshutu” when everybody wants easy Japanese now?  I'm also curious about the polite words from the leaders which are too polite or courteous. I think "Thank you for your understanding" is still good, but "I would like to ask for your cooperation" may be too humble, and the sense of urgency may be diminished. If I speak to germs on my hands before sterilization that “Please understand and cooperate with me to kill you (germs)”, my feeling of indiscriminate sterilizer would be eased.  At any rate, I just pray for Japan, which keep following their old-fashioned or half-hearted style of countermeasures, to hold out against the coronavirus.   Anyway, my sterilization and withdrawal life would come to an end someday but I don’t know when. The intellectuals in the world, including SGRA, are telling that the change of power balance in the world, end of globalization, withdrawal of free market, the rise of autocracy, collapse of democracy, reorganization of economic activities, enlargement of racial and class gaps etc. There is no doubt that it will be a great test for humanity, and we will be faced with grand political, economic, cultural and social experiments, challenges and choices in the future. While working hard from my home, I am always thinking that by such changes or regardless of the changes, whether Corona will inevitably create a new type of human being due to those fluctuations or regardless of their transformation, whether history will reach a major turning point and whether I would transform myself after COVID-19.  SGRA Kawaraban 629 in Japanese (Original)  Sim_ChoonKiat / Associated Professor, Showa Women’s University, SGRA Researcher  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • Xie Zhihai ”Classes in Universities amid COVID-19 Pandemic”

    Nobody in the world has ever imagined that the year 2020 would become the year like this. COVID-19, which have started in China, spread the world in an instant. Everybody cannot take their eyes off from the number of people, their countries and the world, who are infected and their daily life are also restricted. New word “korona-tukare “CORONA fatigue” is already born. Everybody, who is doing any prevention or measure against COVID-19, waits for its ending as soon as possible.As I have a feeling that measures against COVID-19 are different in countries, I would like to write here about the measures in universities.  We are now in March, but we cannot see any ending so the universities in the countries, which have a lot of infected person, are deciding to close schools. In America and England, universities front–loaded their spring holidays from mid- or end of March and students will take online classes after spring holidays up to the end of the grade. Some universities celebrate their graduation ceremonies in June by online. In China, classes are being taken online after this Chinese New Year. Korea is also the same. Reasons why those countries could change to online classes so easily are: infrastructures have been prepared already and they have been utilizing commonly.   Then, how about Japan?  Universities in Japan are still discussing about timing when they start new school term in April, not starting online classes. Amid such circumstances, the University of Tokyo decided that they will start their new term by online classes. At the other universities (private), they will make orientation for freshmen by online and are groping for new style of schooling on online systems. At the APU (Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University) or AIU (Akita International University), both of them have a lot of foreign students and the students who come from other areas in Japan, have already declared that they will start new terms by online. It is important to keep students healthy and their campus sanitary. And, there are other important issues to be taken care appropriately like acceptance and sending of foreign students.   One thing to be considered is that universities must be the place where they give students chances to study whatever happens. For example, if starting of new term would delay, universities have to have supplemental lessons even if they have to extend summer vacation backward. Anyway, it is important to have no blank period. I do not say they will change to online classes immediately. They give assignments to students and receive the report from the students by mail. If there are circumstances for smartphone and internet, they can keep communications between universities and students. Amid COVID-19, if students cannot go out from their homes and they are not informed when universities will be opened, they may have spiritual isolation or loneliness.  For this paper, I checked in the websites of universities in America and Europe.  On their guidance for online classes, I could see a guideline by a hot line for students who have to stay home and feel lonely.  I found community information among students who help each other to get over such situation on online. I was impressed by their measures which are prepared not only for online classes but also for the aftercare of students.   On the Emergency Declaration by the Japanese Government, Kyoai Gakuen University,which I am belonging, began to examine online classes. Under spread of COVID-19, I have a feeling now that we must be prepared for the situation that universities open classes and give students assignment or issues at any time. SGRA Kawaraban 627 in Japanese (Original)  Xie_Zhihai / Associate Professor, KyoueiGakuen University,   Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • Hirakawa Hitoshi The 5th Asia Future Conference Roundtable Discussion “South-East Asian Culture and Religious Dialogues”

    We had two days roundtable discussions under the title “The South-East Asian Culture and Religious Dialogues” at the 5th Asia Future Conference at Bellevue Hotel Alabang, Metro Manila on January 10 and at University of the Philippines Los Banos on January 11, 2020.    As I have been interested in Asian economy and recent development of economies in newly developing area, I made a speech under the title “Social ethics and global economy”. So, I would like to comment on what I thought and felt at the roundtable discussions.    My understanding was very limited because of my English language skills and lack of knowledge about religion and societies in the South-East Asia. Therefore, the contents of the meeting are not introduced here. So you are requested to confirm the contents with the report by the chairman of the discussion session, Professor OGAWA Tadashi from Atomi University. I myself would like to know more deeply about economics, religions and social ethics once the reports will be issued officially.  I myself have found that economics today has a great impact on developing societies, yet their attention to them is extremely inadequate. The 2001 Nobel Prize winner in economics, Professor Joseph Stiglitz, describes the experience of his colleague, Professor Richard H. Thaler from the University of Chicago, that the perception of justice about economic behavior among students studying economics is far from the ordinary people.  According to his survey on pricing of shovels for shoveling after a storm, 82% of the general population answered that price increases were unfair, compared to just 24% of MBA students attending the University. The understanding of fairs in economics students is very different from that of social understanding. In fact, such cases are happening around us as a high-priced mask sale due to ongoing COVID 19. Professor Stiglitz sharply criticized that the economic affairs played a role in the collusion between wealthy people and politicians due to the widening income gap in American society.  The keynote speaker at the Roundtable, Professor Bernard M. Villegas, Vice President of Asia-Pacific University, addressed the issue that economics is less interested in social issues or selfishness. Professor Villegas, as an educator with a Ph.D. in economics along with his experience of around half a century summed up the discussion, saying that economics has expedited subdivision and quantization too much. He emphasized the elegance of mathematical formulas in the analysis of economic phenomena. He was objectively criticized for competing, emphasizing market independence, and eliminating justice, social responsibility of human beings, and consideration of national regulations. At the same time, he persuasively stated that he, himself, practiced his teaching of economics, being based on the results of various sciences, for solution of poverty in the Philippines saying economics is “social science”.    The report by Ms. Sister Mary John Mananzan of St. Scholastica University in the Philippines dealing with the feminization of poverty in the Philippines, the report by Mr. Somboon Chun Prampuri of the social participation Buddhist network reporting on the social ethics and globalization of Buddhism in Thailand, and the report by Jamhari Siswant, Dean of the Sharif Hidayatura State Islamic University, reported on the latest Islamic movements in Indonesia. These all reports addressed the current challenges of religious people in Southeast Asia.  Listening to those opinions, I wondered if economics which I know now can respond to such opinions or reports. Religious social activities are aimed at living human beings. They are directly involved in fighting various types of discrimination, including absolute poverty and gender discrimination, in various environments and conditions. Many social activities in Southeast Asia are aimed at liberation from poverty and sex discrimination.  Come to think of it, Economics sees society from a distinctly different perspective. Economics describes complex social relationships as a model of a simple abstract market, and considers that society can maximize "efficiency" through that market. The market here equates society with an unclear distinction between idea and reality. Moreover, in the current mainstream economics, the real world is captured through mathematical models, and other social sciences are excluded. Of course, economics has grown greatly now, and various models have been created to approach reality. The principle model has been modified.  But what if these economics apply to the developing world? Economists who write development prescriptions have little knowledge of developing societies, and the prescriptions thus made are policies through developed countries and international development organizations. In conclusion, such models can be said to have been founded on simple and philosophical market models. When a policy fails, its cause has been sought in the developing society itself. The response to the Asian currency crisis of 1997 is a good example.  I dare to say that there is no distinction in economics between economy and society.  In economic globalization, economics has been involved in the development of developing regions and forced developing countries to liberalize and privatize. The various contradictions which come from such enforcement have been imposed to the weak.  The story jumps a little, but the global financial crisis that hit the US subprime loan crisis in 2008, and the birth of US President Trump in 2017, are the consequences of the failure of policy promoted by liberal economics. Also, it is ironic that China, under the Communist Party's government, which seemed to be unsuccessful, achieved amazing development and growth. Is it a counterattack by actual societies against mainstream economics? Every society need rules. However, the economics of the past half century have broken down the rules of society, expanded the income gap, deepened social division, and deteriorated the economy and society by treating it as regulation. Isn't that attachment a democratic crisis both inside and outside the United States?  When I expressed my opinion, at round-table conference, saying that economics now think about welfare on the assumption of abstract “model.” Sister Mary Mananzan showed a nasty look which pierced my heart sharply.  The word "economics is science" also comes to mind. However, economics as a social science must be self-restraint regarding the application of abstract models to the real world, and policies need not be created in cooperation with various sciences. There are words “Economics is Science”. However, economics, as a social science, should be self-controlled when its abstracted models will be applied to actual societies and its policies must be decided in cooperation with various sciences. No matter how much economics claims academic superiority, it is only dogmatic and arrogant. In international development and poverty development, a restraint attitude may be required more urgently than ever before.  It is not wrong at all that economics is certainly valid for partial, local analysis and policy. However, when trying to apply it to a developing society, special caution and restraint are required. However, if we apply to developing societies, we have to be careful and self-controlled. I think it was around the Asian currency crisis, but I remember the anecdote that economists once learned of the history and societies of developing countries obscure decision-making by a former prominent American economist. I realized from this round table discussion about my relationship with society. I would like to continue my study hereafter “social ethics and global economy” and its relation with sustainable and joint development.  Lastly, I express my thanks to all the people who organized the round table discussions, Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas who made a keynote speech, Prof. T. Ogawa and Dr. Ranjana Mukopadhyaya, who chaired the discussions, Project Coordinator, Dr. Brenda Tenegra, Dr. Ferdinando C. Maquito and Dr. Sonya Dale who interpreted for me.  SGRA Kawaraban 624 in Japanese (Original)  Hitoshi Hirakawa / Professor emeritus, Nagoya University, Director of Atsumi International Foundation  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala  
  • Wu Xiaoxiao “Nagasaki , take action ! ”

     It was in the afternoon, when I arrived at Nagasaki. It has been raining on and off all day.  And, it was already after 19:30 when I arrived at hotel after finishing supper following visit to Dejima and the Oh-ura Cathedral. I had a plan to visit Inasa-yama (Mt. Inasa) first. However, my fatigue and rain made me being bewildered and tried to persuade myself to give up.  According to my checking on internet how to enjoy night view of Inasa-yama, people say “it is difficult to visit there without car”, or “recommend to use tour bus”.  Actually, I persuaded myself to give up saying “the number of public bus is limited”, “I have to worry about the way back to hotel at night”, “it will be possible tomorrow” and “it will be OK without enjoying night view” etc..  When did look I persuade myself to give up what I like to do or what I want to have before starting?  It becomes my fetters if I would examine and think beforehand too much. Or, I put off because there are too many things to do knowing that I have to do. I have to use bigger energy if I like to shift my idea to action. Or, if I cannot keep my promise due to my putting off, I would become “kana-shibari” (old hag syndrome) by sense of guilt and fear like an ostrich (burying it’s head in the sand while leaving other parts exposed). It is a vicious circle that lack of ability of taking action becomes bigger due to stress by my putting off and self-hatred.  It becomes clear that if I plan to go tomorrow, it would mean I do not go by 100%.  In conclusion, I left hotel having mobile map only (not following a route on network).  There is a Japanese word “houkou-onchi” (no sense of direction). There seems no relations between direction and the sense of hearing or space and sound. If we think of a metaphor “architecture is a frozen music”, I think it very exquisite expression.  I was turning around repeatedly on the same route, like from walking to streetcars, walking to bus, walking to ropeway, and I was heading to opposite directions.  Strange to say, my stress, fear or uneasiness, has been disappearing after leaving hotel.  When I got off ropeway, I heard a cheer from a distance and saw a lot of people moving at the foot of a mountain. It was a finishing of any concert. When lift doorsof the observation platform open, I could see a glorious view of the Nagasaki Port,which is long horizontally and folded with mountains. Shadow of the port on the sea-surface is very conspicuous. That’s the port Nagasaki ! It is the one of the best 3 night views in Japan. When I enjoyed such view and went to the elevator hall, I heard explosive sound and I could look back gigantic fireworks which was lighted from a vessel below. It was very exciting to see fireworks on the sea which continued for about twenty minutes. It was the first time for me to “look down” fireworks from above.    Once I take the first step, mind and body become lightened. And, once I keep walking, there would be nothing useless even if it may not be shortcut. If I take any action, everything would go better. Why do I take such action from the beginning ? There would be many reasons depending on people who are lacking of action. On the way back to hotel, I realized that if I think of too much what I would do, it is a reason of lacking of action. The more you think, the more you afraid of your failure. And you will have a negative image in your future. You will have a pressure on what you think it important or difficult and it takes time to take action. It is said that reason for such thinking too much comes from “perfectionism” or “PCN (Procrastination Syndrome)”  Everybody may have such “syndrome” more or less, and if someone feel seriously for such syndrome, he would make cause trouble to surroundings.  It is natural to make trouble in his daily works and living. Especially, his confidence will be damaged and it is not good for his mental health.  Then, how to solve or improve it?  When I left hotel, I did not imagine to look down fireworks from the top of “Inasa-yama”. But, I thought I would damage myself if I do not take action to leave hotel by momentum. After leaving hotel, I have been losing way all the way and could not care about myself to be able to reach “Inasa-yama” or not. It was good to give no time to myself beforehand. Once I take one step forward, only action will follow. I think it most difficult to open “Word file” when I try to write an essay or a thesis after deadline. I feel it torturous to read my unfinished essay. But, once I can clear such psychological barriers, task itself would not distress me. Rather, it may make me pleasure like night view from the top of Inasa-yama and fire-works and make me feel “I am glad I could come here”. By the way, it rained very heavily ever recorded next day in Kyushu and all the trains in Nagasaki stopped. If I have postponed my schedule saying “I would go tomorrow”, I missed the chance to see such wonderful views.    SGRA Kawaraban 622 in Japanese (Original)  Wu Xiaoxiao /2018 Raccoon, Associate Fellow, Curator of Tokyo National Museum,  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • Kim Boram “Environment and Scientific Technology”

     “Science saves and destroys the earth.”  Since I have studied about solar power generation, a type of renewable energies for five years during my master’s and doctoral degree courses, I have always been thinking about this phrase. Through this phrase, I would like to write my feelings about the relationship between “environment and science”.  In recent years, environmental issues like exhaustion of resources such as oil and coal, air pollution, and global warming are becoming more acute. As a result, countries around the world have adopted every possible policy like the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and the Paris Agreement of 2015. Among those policies, if we focus on the energy issues, the main goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, the purpose of countries that are promoting the use of renewable energy is not only the issue of the global environment but also the protection of energy security, but we will not talk about that here.     In the field of science and technology, the most important thing to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) exhaustion is to develop clean energy sources. Beside solar power generation that I have worked on, there are other power generation systems, like wind power generation, geothermal and biomass power generation etc. There are other approaches of technologies related to the electrification of products such as the development of automobiles which mount electric motor engines instead of gasoline engines. Also, the research has been conducted on capturing CO2, exhausted at thermal power station, and restore it into carbon fuels. Looking at these things, science is thought to be a discipline that can save the future earth. However, what I have always been questioning is that the development of science and technology has caused the current environmental problems.  Scientific technology has invented various things to enrich human life. At present, the indispensable of our daily life such as the electrical products like mobile phones and computers including vehicles such as automobiles and airplanes and functional materials for clothes are all products made by the development of science and technology. Even mass production, which have been developed to meet our increasing population, was made by development of scientific technology. Even just from what is stated here, it is clear that human life has been abundant due to the development of science. At the same time, consumption of energy and natural resources buried in the ground (metal etc.) are being critical. It is estimated that the world economy that has continued to develop since the industrial revolution that took place in the latter half of the 18th century will continue to grow by the development of the developing countries. However, it is speculated that the depletion of resources and environmental issues will continue to grow and become more serious.   The unknown world is explicated down to nanometer unit by the development of science and even taking pictures of black holes has been successful. I think scientific technique could make clear about any phenomenon on earth and in planet and enrich human life. However, I hope such scientific technique will be utilized not only for human beings but also for the global environment. Science destroys the earth for human life, but science also has the key to overcome it. In fact, efforts are now started to develop renewable energies, electric motors for cars, and plastics that melts quickly. I, as a researcher of engineering science, would like to challenge my research and knowledge for the future of the earth.     SGRA Kawaraban 621 in Japanese (Original)  Kim_Boran / Special researcher of Power Device at Samsung Electronics (Korea)   Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • Yang Chun-ting The 8th Fukushima Study Tour “Resurrection of Fukushima”

    I participated in the Fukushima Study Tour for three days from September 21 to 23, 2019 and I had a really productive time. People just say “earthquake disaster” and “reconstruction” simply. But, I would like to report what actually happened and are being happening in Fukushima. Habitants fled from radiation contamination after the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant Accident in 2011. And, I report what I heard and saw, like decontamination works, utilization of land and return of habitants etc.  At First, we visited the "TEPCO Decommissioning Museum", which reviews the progress of the nuclear accident and introduces the current status and schedule of decommissioning work. It was a few days after three former TEPCO executives were acquitted by the judicial decision. The commentators of the museum explained and apologized repeatedly saying “TEPCO did not continue to strengthen safety measures by neglecting the risk of severe accidents caused by external events such as natural phenomena “.  I was surprised rather at their explanation that TEPCO have not taken any measures by 2011 despite TEPCO have received an information in 2008 that water level would rise to 15.7m by tsunami by the earthquake at Fukushima offshore.   We left the museum and went to Iitate where people have been interrupted from their usual day-to day life because they had to take refuges. On March 31, 2017, six years after the accident, the evacuation order for Iitate, except one district, was released finally.  According to statistics on September, this year, only less than 1,200 villagers out of about 6,500 returned. I saw a lot of flexible container bags for contaminated soil in Iitate, surrounded by beautiful mountains. I could see solar-panels also at the corner of farm-land.  We stayed at “House of Wind and Soil”, built by reused wooden materials for temporary houses for exchange between the people inside and outside of Iitate. We took lectures from Mr. Yoichi Tao, Director of “Resurrection of Fukushima” and Assistant Director, Professor Masaru Mizoguchi, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Science/ Faculty of Agriculture, the University of Tokyo. We learned the present Iitate, where agriculture, forestry and livestock industries have been their livelihood before.  But, farmers cultivate Turkish (Chinese) bellflowers (トルコキキョウ) in cultivation houses now, and we could see barns for cows which are controlled by remote monitoring equipment.  We visited “Museum for Matsuzuka Soil” where we learned how to decontaminate radiation “Cesium”, and also visited farms for Japanese lacquer tree (ウルシ) which are being cultivated experimentally as economical products. We experienced planting flowers under the guidance of Mr. Kin-ichi Ookubo who is trying to make flower garden like a paradise of earth by growing various flowers like cherry blossoms and roses.  We have enjoyed dinner party also together with the villagers at the Sasu Public Hall (ex-Sasu Junior High School) where we offered our hand-made fusion cuisine and villagers returned their dance and songs.  In fact, among the people who can be counted as villagers in Iidate, more than 100 migrants who have moved in during the past two years, such as the Tao family, are included. Therefore, some villagers said that, as to their resurrection plan, they feel antipathy against the opinion of new comers from outside of Iitate.  “Resurrection of Fukushima” is now setting their new program. But it may affect Iitate, because we cannot say all the villagers are keeping up pace with the program. Actually, “Resurrection of Fukushima” called an art director, Mr. Fram Kitagawa to draw up a plan “Art Project” discovering local culture and attracting visitors to the area.  *Fram Kitagawa : famous for his works like “International Art Festival in Setonai”, “Art Festival of Daichi (Niigata Pref.)etc., Awarded ‘文化功労賞‘(bunka koro sho - cultural distinguished service) in 2016  Some people may have a doubt why “art” is adopted for the purpose of resurrection ofagricultural villages. However, I, as a student of art, understand think it quite reasonable. Art tends to add unique value to every event, by "visualizing" things that are not normally visible to the public and re-examining established concepts. The viewer is stimulated by the art work and encourages various discoveries and recognition. Due to these characteristics, art projects are already being practiced in many parts of Japan as a means of regional resurrection, with the hope that artists will bring new perspectives to discover and communicate the appeal of the region.  According to Mr. Tao, resurrection of Iitate does not mean returning the village to the original condition. He insisted that the nuclear accident destroyed the relationship between the nature and human beings and spirits of human beings who cut off their relationship were destroyed by the accident. In these meanings, art project may lead to new relations or attractions between human beings and human beings, or between human beings and lands.  Efforts for resurrection of Iitate spread from agriculture and forestry, and stock raising to artistic activities. Regardless of whether it is an “inside person” or not, the many activities being carried out by multi-disciplinary collaborators who have enormous imagination based on the research and research capabilities that have settled on the ground, showcase the rich creativity of citizens.  SGRA NEWS ( Report of The 8th Fukushima Study Tour) in Japanese (original) Photos of the Day  Yang Chun-ting / 2018 Raccoon      Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
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