SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

  • XIE_Zhihai “Is the COVID-19 a good opportunity for revitalization of local area?”

    Our daily life has drastically changed due to COVID-19 in 2020. To begin with, lifestyle of inhabitants in the cities, where population density is high, had to be changed. Large enterprises started working remotely to prevent commuter rush. However, companies which have little infrastructure for remote works or workers in service industries who cannot work remotely had to go to their offices being petrified by coronavirus which are floating everywhere. City life cannot avoid the “three C’s” (Closed, Crowded, Close contact) anywhere and it is considered as gloomy.   People here in North Kanto area, 100 Km away from Tokyo, where I am living, have been easy-going because there is no “three C’s” because of its automobile society. At ramen shops, they make “three C’s” queues always, not to protrude to roads and the lines are “straight”.I had an impression that it is Japan. When you go to supermarkets or drug stores, you can see a lot of people there. And the situation is the same with “before the COVID-19 pandemic” and they make “three C’s” queues. (At present, you can see a seal on the floor to keep space between a guest in front.) There are differences how people understand TV broadcasting which are sending regardless of cities and countryside.  Then, how do people in the cities understand the life and actual situations of countryside?When people began to talk about “remote XXX”, we have been talking about movement from city to countryside. If we can work from home or work once or twice a week at office, we can live in big house in countryside without high rent in the cities and go to office to take care of something when needed. We can expect vitalization of countryside by such work style.According to weekly magazine the “Toyo Keizai” issued in July, there would be a lot of merits in “movement to countryside”. You can work and child-care in spacious living environment.But I, living in countryside, do not think it will be easy to move in.  I looked around our town where I live and neighboring city where I work and I observed present situation of countryside from my car window. I would like to convey my message hereunder how people understand the situation when they consider movement to countryside from city under the COVID-19 pandemic. When I walked around for the first time for six months, I was surprised at the shops which have closed. I do not know exactly whether the close down was from pandemic or not. You can see a lot of private owned restaurants, general stores and clothing stores closed. Not only IZAKAYA (Japanese Pub) chain but fast-food restaurants also withdrew. As they did not remove their signboards, people who just pass by car could not  know their closings.  In another column of the Toyo Keizai magazine, they wrote : If people, who move to countryside from city, would be allowed to do side jobs, they will work in local companies or advise the companies in countryside being home in cities. If so, there would be positive effects from the viewpoints of vitalization of business activities of local companies and development of industries in countryside. If they can do so, it may be wonderful. But I think only the people, who live in cities, can say so. It will not be possible for the people, who move to countryside only one-hour ride on Shinkansen, to live like in Tokyo. Hence, it is not exaggerated. For example, after office hour and before returning to their homes, Tokyo people post a letter in postbox and go shopping in supermarket or convenient stores withdrawing some money from ATM. They may drop at drug stores. They act without any preparation every day.    However, here in countryside, each destination is remote. We need to take own car to faraway place as there is no public transportations available.  Car is only conveyance. When they move to countryside, they must open an account at a local bank to buy a car because there are few mega-banks in our prefecture and local banks are working for their existence. We can find local banks everywhere. I opened an account at a local bank out of necessity a few years ago and was obligatory to buy a car.       I like to simulate possible situation of migration, not transference, under the CORONA-19 pandemic. In case, people, who telecommute with Tokyo office, like to visit local office to contribute to local enterprises, must have a car and its time consuming. The office of local companies may not be necessarily near stations. Then, you might possibly feel right for the employee to have house nearby. When he has a meeting at Tokyo Office, he has to be dropped by his family member to the nearest railway station because taking a car self-driven could be expensive due to the troll tax and the parking fees.    Another situation, related to car, is a case of family with small children. In this case, there must be two vehicles in family one for children being dropped and pick up from school regularly and for others. There are traffic congestions every morning at rotary of the nearest station and we can see many students (including university students) in uniforms who are sent by their mothers. In the afternoon, we can see also middle and high-school students who go to jyuku (cram school). Can you imagine that mother, who works energetically in city is too busy dropping and picking up her children?To raise young children is another story. Parks are not adjoining resident areas.  Mothers must send their children to parks by car if they do not live near parks. It is characteristics of countryside areas. You can see one swing in parks in cities. Since there are no such parks in countryside, you cannot see children, who are brought by their mothers, are playing at small parks near their houses. You cannot see students of higher grade of elementary schools go to parks and play together, which is quite common in the parks in Tokyo.  There are no delivery services of perishable foods like Amazon Fresh or supermarkets which are common in cities. Only one delivery services in countryside is by cooperative. There were no Uber_Eats or “Demaekan” but now Uber_Eats has started their service since September.  If restaurants here, would close or withdraw, what shall we do?  In addition to restaurants, you can see a lot of vacant houses in this area. Last year, a high-rise condominium was completed in front of the station which Shinkansen stop. Due to extension of pedestrian deck which connect station and condominium, it was “SOLD OUT”.We saw, however, many vacant houses even after its completion. After the pandemic, I thought the number of occupiers (tenants) would increase due to the media which report about spread of “remote works” or “movement to countryside from cities”. I saw flyers in newspapers which introduce many types of this condominium saying that “condominium for investment” or “for speculative purposes”.  I can even see fliers now.    I have written about present situation of local area. For the people who have been living in local area for a long time, they know automobile societies well and will not be reluctant to move to local area. On TV, we can see pictures where a lot of people who moves to-and-fro in city center. But such pictures are different from real circumstances of local areas. I think people, who evaluate migration to local area, are living in city center. Of course, it will be the best to live in a big city like Tokyo. But we cannot say “it is invincible life” and there would be “pitfalls”.  Revitalization of local area is a big issue in Japan even if there was no coronavirus. My town is making strong efforts for PR activities for tourist and for special products. I think it is important and appealing to attract migration from big city to local area as much as possible possible, points like “livable area” or “no natural disasters”. At the same time, they should improve infrastructure so that migrants can accustom to a town life immediately, for example, increasing frequency of fixed route buses and better transportations.     SGRA Kawaraban 651 in Japanese (Original)  XIE_Zhihai /Associate Professor of Kyoai Gakuen University Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala 
  • XIE Zhihai “Now is the time for considering carbon-free society as environmental issues”

    One good thing about the COVID-19 is the sharp decrease of CO2 (carbon dioxide) emission due to static of the economy. However, as you may know, it will be temporal and not for long.We must work on for the global warming countermeasure together with sustainable economic growth. It is an energy policy. It is the shortest way of global warming countermeasure heading for “decarbonized society”, that we decrease consumption of coal and fuel oil and accelerate alternative renewal energies.  People agreed to “keep rise in average temperature of the whole earth lower than 2 degrees on the AC and keep 1.5 degrees lower comparing with the time of Industrial Revolution” in the Paris Agreement in 2015.Many countries are moving for the direction of “carbon-free”. “Carbon-free” starts from decreasing and stoppage of usage of coal. Discharge of CO2 at coal-fired power plant is double of LNG power station.The advanced nations have declared stoppage of coal-fired power generation. In case of U.K. they will stop by 2025, France by 2021 and Canada by 2030.  And those nations organized PPCA (Powering Past Coal Alliance) in 2016 and 33 nations and 29 Governments have already joined.  Then, what about Japan? There are 140 coal-fired power plants already. And Japanese company is building a huge coal-fired power plant, which will start operating from 2024, at Vung-ang, Vietnam. Among so-called “G7”, Japan is only nation which is building coal-fired power plants in overseas and is getting sever criticism from other membership countries of the Paris Agreement saying that Japan is not so positive in decarbonation, despite Japan is targeting to decrease greenhouse gas by 23% as compared to the year 2013, and, by the year 2030. Japan has received the disgrace “Fossil award” from “Climate Action Network (CAN)” at UN Climate Action Summit COP25 in December 2019. It was second award in a row.  Ministry of Environment, Mr. Koizumi pledged at COP25 that “we have committed ourselves already in decarbonization and we will fulfill it”.  After COP25 last December, Japanese policy for coal-fired power plant is changing. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry announced on July 3, 2020 that about a hundred of coal-fired power plants out of 140 plants, which are old type and volume of CO2 discharge is large, shall be stopped in operation and disposed by 2030. At the same time, Japan decided to make their export assistance condition of coal-fired power station stern.We can say this may be the first big step to “decarbonization”, but it is not complete stoppage of using carbon.  Why cannot Japan stop using carbon? There are two main reasons domestically and across. In domestic, almost all the nuclear power plants had to stop operating after “3.11” (Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011) and the number of coal-fired power station (running cost is lower) increased gradually without any debate. Japan cannot abolish coal fired power stations easily, because coal-fired electricity occupies 30% of total electricity in Japan. Developing countries in South East Asia, they are still developing coal-fired power stations. If Japan would stop involvement in such markets, China and/or India will definitely enter in  business.  And Japan may lose such broad market.    Beside such reasons mentioned above, re-recognition of renewable energy will be necessary to get out of so-called “coal addiction” as Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres pointed out,It has been told that cost of coal-fired electricity is cheap and cost of electricity by renewable energy is high. Such understandings, however, are not correct anymore. During these ten years since 2011, the cost by solar power generation has gone down by 80%.According to the Bloomberg New Energy Finance, renewable energy cost by solar power and wind power will become lower than that of coal-fired electricity by 2030.  As for the overseas market, economic profit from export of renewable energy technology is higher than export of coal-fired power station plant itself. And it will be appreciated highly by international societies.  To attain the carbon-free societies, prevalence of renewable energy is essential. The government is targeting the share of renewal energy will rise to 22~24% by 2030 and coal-fired electricity will be decreased by only a few percent and upto 26%. This target figure should be reconsidered.For example, the Japan Association of Corporate Executives insists the share of renewable energy shall be 40% in 2030. The Renewable Energy Institute, established by SON Masayoshi after “3.11”, advocates the target figure shall be 45%. If the Japanese Government would aim seriously at situation where renewable electricity is main electricity, they should introduce renewable energy more brazenly.And if they can do it, “carbon-free society” is not far from materialization.   SGRA Kawaraban 649 in Japanese (Original)  XIE Zhihai / Associate Professor, Kyoai Gakuen International University    Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • Jaeun YUN SGRA Café “Teachings of Countermeasures against Coronavirus and Japanese Model”

     Recently, Pew Research Center, American research firm, announced an interesting report. They asked 14 countries question、it was “Do you recognize pandemic of infectious diseases as a strong menace?” (research period: June – August) Which country do they understand it as “strong menace”?  South Korea was the first and the figure was 89%. Their answers were “Yes, it is a strong menace”.  The second was Japan and the figure was 88%. When we compare the differences between two countries, we can say that both countries feel “menace” equally. Whereas, the other countries, U.S.A. 78%, England 74% and Germany 55% (the lowest). Sweden, which took lax measures, scored 56%.  When we see the news by mass media and glaring correspondence against coronavirus by the Government in South Korea, we can easily understand their strong menace feelings. But it was unexpected that strong menace feeling in Japan was too high. Mass media reports about the coronavirus were restrained and correspondence by the central and local Government were lax in Japan.  It became distinct that the measures against coronavirus in Japan depend on the efforts by individuals who felt strong threat. Movement of people has decreased sharply and all the Japanese Railway companies fall into the biggest red despite of no compulsory measures. If there would be “Japanese model”, it will be a thoroughness of behavior modification by individuals. (I have a doubt for calling “Japanese model”, because it will be not easy to imitate.)  At SGRA café this time、 under the title “Japanese measures against the new coronavirus from international viewpoints”, I had a feeling of differences in the meaning between the reports from various countries and Japanese cases. Five countries (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India and the Philippines), except Vietnam, are democratic system countries and have tracking technique using systems for mobility limitation and personal information management. Violation of human rights is allowed partly for the purpose of “repressing spread of coronavirus”. Such limitation of movement which bring penalty paying, mandatory of face masks, limitation of business suspension have been introduced already in the countries in Europe and the America. We cannot deny the fact that failures in the past were effective as a kind of “social vaccinations” in South Korea and Taiwan and regulatory measures, as social consensus, were applied. In the Philippines which consist of many islands, and India which has big land and population, had to decide to apply strong limitation of movement.  Japan did not take a hard line. But there was no “pandemic” in Japan like Europe and America. Under the COVID-19, I am carefully watching the gathering of denialists against face masks for the coronavirus. (Anti-Government denialists at anti-lockdown demonstration) Participants of such gatherings are so-called “anti-intellectualism” and we can say that, it reflects the values which have been cherished in Europe and the America.   The tone of the considerable press in Japan about the infection control measures in Korea has been “totalitarianism”. I trust “Korea as a democratic country” and have been looking that if control measures constrained, there will be a backlash. It was the “anti-Governmental demonstration” on August 15. I thought it was quite foolish for the participants to demonstrate. But it was certified that Korea is a democratic country despite being different from the America and Europe.  When we think in this way, Japanese case was exceptional. There was no authoritarian control measures and people’s backlash was not so strong despite a public-opinion poll showed that more than half of people were dissatisfied with the measures taken by the Government. There was “No-mask Event (Shibuya Cluster Festival)”. But it was dilapidated if we compare with Korea, America and Europe. “Voluntary restriction of movement” under the words “self-restraint” was pursued and use of Shinkansen at Obon holidays decreased significantly. It was “Japanese characteristics” which is different from the America and Europe where personal freedom is emphasized, and different from South Korea and Taiwan where authoritarianism remains, and different from China and Vietnam under authoritarianism itself.  It may be possible to say that individual taken measures have led anti-coronavirus measures in Japan. So-called “self-restraint policeman”, which is interpreted negatively, may be a part of “Japanese model”.  We cannot overlook the case in Toshima Ward Office in Tokyo.  Staff member of Toshima Ward Office were arrested threatened eating house having changed to “self-restraint policeman”.  In other countries, the role of “self-restraint policeman” is performed by real policeman and we can see the particularity of Japan clearly there. (Of course, we cannot encourage self-restraint policeman because personal sanctions are not allowed by the penal law in Japan) We may be able to say KINDAICHI Kosuke (a detective) solve the case before policemen. (For your information, I am a fan of YOKOMIZO Masashi(novelist))    We must consider, however, the fact that Japanese lax regulations hindered economic recession. In the busy shopping districts in KUNITACHI city where I am living and our neighboring city TACHIKAWA, a lot of shops and restaurants were closed. A venerable stationery shop (established 81 years ago) and a steak house (established 30 years ago) closed. It will be difficult to pick up the economy without squelching a menace of the coronavirus to a certain degree.  Reports at SGRA café have made it clear that consistency of economy and epidemic preventions is not easy.  The lesson, which we learned from the war against the coronavirus during this half year, is that “it is quite difficult to have consistency in both economy and epidemic prevention”. That will not change until we find clear evidence of attenuation of the coronavirus or vaccine development. Most probably there will be no change next year in “repetition of control and expansion” as this year. Since our “wishful thinking” have been betrayed one after another, we must think in this way. It may be the most effective that we take measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus assuming the worst possible cases.  Photos of the Day  Questionnaire total result  Recording of the Day   SGRA Kawaraban 647 in Japanese (Original)  Jaeun_YUN / 2020 Raccoon,  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • Nahed ALMEREE “Syrian Way of Proposal”

     I was recently asked by the people around me very often about my schedule after graduation because we will be graduating soon. Especially, in the case of postgraduate students, who have studied several years, they are asked about jobs or works after graduation. Being asked about jobs, they are even asked about marriages or marital status especially if a woman unmarried.   Since I have majored in Japanese literature, I came to Japan in September 2011 to get doctoral degree. And I have obtained doctoral degree last month i.e. March 2020 basing on my doctoral thesis which I completed on last December 2019 taking tenure of eight years. It may be quite natural to be asked about jobs or life after my return to Syria. Among a lot of queries done to me, last year, the one was concerns and surprises.  It was a question about “proposing” which precede marriage. “Proposing” has been conversed very often so far but has not been discusses concretely.  Several times I was asked by Japanese acquaintances or friends who are of my age saying “how do I propose?” or “how were Nahed-san proposed?” I understood that Japanese young men worry about words, places and timing of proposal. When Japanese young men propose, they spend a lot of money on gift and luxury hotel or restaurant.I was surprised, why they worry about such things and spend so much money? I asked reason and I came to know there are obligation in Japan that young men should follow. For women who are proposed, they are given with good topics for discuss and heat up their chat. As there is a big difference in meaning of a word “proposal” between Syria and Japan, I searched for a keyword “proposal” on Google and could hit so many links unexpectedly. I was disappointed with so many pages which suggest how, when(timing) and where they should propose. In my case, I had been attached with him for two years before I came to Japan, and I do not remember how he proposed. To begin with, I do not remember well whether he used a word “proposal” clearly. It is not so important for Syrian girls. In Syria or other neighboring countries, when men or women become aware of being compatible or like with each other, they will keep staying near to each other intentionally. And they try to communicate more on school hours and stay longer. I think friendship between men and women start like this in many countries. In Syria, men are more positive than women of course. They become lovers eventually and are tied to knots after being acquainted with each other.   To get married, suitor talks each other and decide. Then, girl tells her mother and finally discussed with the man of the house.  After that she conveys parents’ consent to him, determine the timing of their parents for their engagement. After both the family meets, the boy’s father says “it is my great honor to welcome your daughter to be our daughter-in-law”. Then girl’s father says “it’s my privilege too to be one family when our daughter and your son will marry”. Their engagement is admitted among their families and they will have an engagement party accordance by two fathers. It will take a few weeks or months for the preparation of wedding ceremony and finally the wedding is held. It is a procedure in Syria and other neighboring countries. Initiated relationship through their fathers are welcomed by the women. Before engagement, man usually buys gifts and takes woman to fancy restaurants. At the beginning stage, he gives flowers often. The flowers may not be expensive.  It may be a roses or jasmine which are found easily. Eventually they get into serious relationship, and man starts gifting her with presents like watches and bags.  However, women would not be pleased if the stage will not go to proposal initiated through father and involving parents from both sides. Proposing place is fixed at her family’s house. Men visits her family’s house with his parents bringing fruits or cakes and they will leave the rest to their fathers. I noticed wonderful way of proposal in Japan, which young couples are playing leading part and thought that men’s burden would be heavy. It is a big difference from Syria. You may think Syrian way of proposal is too traditional and boring. But it is much more wonderful for me, born in Syria, to be proposed being supported and watched by parents. Especially, I think it doubtful that internet or SNS suggest men side words, places and timings of proposal.  It is quite natural that proposal style varies in countries and generations.When I see, on the Internet, a lot of suggestions about proposal which should be an important step to make a family, I had a feeling, frankly speaking, that individual spontaneity or positiveness would be shrouded in darkness without realizing. Women side would have a high acceptance for proposal, men side may lose confidences and miss chances to make proposal. Present society or SNS inflame modern style of proposal. But it is a natural course of proposal style that lead to realistic marriage which might not be ideal. It is already nine years I am in Japan and the people around ask me many questions. “Proposal” is one of them and my opinion is mentioned above.  SGRA Kawaraban 645 in Japanese (Original)  Nahed_ALMAREE / 2019 Raccoon Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala  
  • Xie Suhang “In Preparation for Prolonged War against Corona”

     April 4 is a Qingming Festival in China. At 10 o’clock, this day, the government prayed, for three minutes, for doctors and other medical workers and the dead by the new coronavirus in China which occurred on January 23 in Wuhan. They fought for about two months.  The prayers by the government were the symbol of elementary victory against COVID-19.  In China, COVID-19 converged temporarily. But it spread all over the world in April and Japan was no exception. The number of infected persons in Japan is not so big compared to Europe and America. The Japanese government declared a state of emergency in April and May and could put COVID-19 under their control. But, when the Japanese government released such declarations at the end of May, infection clusters out broke. In Tokyo, the number of infections increased day by day. It was the second wave of coronavirus.  The second wave of coronavirus in Japan brought us brutal facts as follows: At least, in a predictable future, we must live together with corona which would leave influential traces in our daily lives.  We dreamed optimistically that we would be able to get back to normal lives after standing suffering in a short period. But this dream was broken. We must rebuild our new attitude in COVID-19. We have to have strong and tenacious guts of prolonged war against coronavirus and, at the same time, we have to do our best in our defensive measures against COVID-19 paying attention in all our movement of our actual daily lives. I think it corrects attitude to survive in the “WITH-CORONA” societies.  There is one story which I have read before. This story explains how an individual or one organization succeeded in coping with and overcame over prolonging difficulties. The answer, which the writer gave us, is “recuperative power”. Then how is “recuperative power” composed?  The writer of this article has interviewed a survivor of the Nazi concentration camp. According to a survivor, he had never had an illusion that he would be rescued soon. It differed from other inmates.On the contrary, he was prepared seriously to predict that he might not get out of the camp forever.  The only thing he has been thinking in the camp, in which people would reach the limit of life or death, is that he had to expose everything which he had experienced there in the world if he would be able to get out of the camp alive.  He was strongly saying in his heart that he would inform the world about the tragedies in the camp and such tragedies should not be repeated.  Based on such belief, he has collected every material for the winter in the camp and could get over finally such difficult situation which is far beyond our imagination.    Such experience by this survivor shows us clearly that there are three factors that consist of “recuperative power”. Namely, courage which faces actuality, a pursuit for meaning of being alive and flexible correspondence to the situation. I think those three factors are the “theses” which can maximize our real worth in the circumstance that we would confront COVID-19 on a long-term basis.  The COVID-19 pandemics on a global scale brought the people all over the world not only serious disasters but various difficulties like the menace of latent virus, inconvenient and restricted livings, stagnant of consumer lives and losing sense of accomplishment by unemployment etc.I think, however, those difficulties gave us again good chances to reconsider and determine the purpose of lives and positive attitude to our lives.  There will be a big possibility which influence of COVID-19 become a trigger to the sudden change in global situations. But I think we should consider COVID-19, which we encountered unfortunately in the year 2020, as good news, not as bad news. Let’s create infinite possibilities by ourselves in our limited livings which may continue a long period.  SGRA Kawaraban 644 in Japanese (Original)  Xie_Suhang / 2019 Raccoon,  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala   
  • Li Yanming “East Asia in the Post-Corona Era”

     We had nearly a hundred participants at SGRA Café this time.The reasons、 why we could gather such a big number of participants, are :1)  Timely selection of the theme “East Asia in the Post-Corona Era”2) Attractive lecturers as Mr. Lim Chuan-Tiong and othersand 3) “Virtual style” Café     The Café started with Mr. Lim Chuan-Tiong’s lecture at the first section.Though we had a get-together meeting after the lecture and comments, I like to explain Mr. Lim’s lecture mainly in this report. As to a get-together meeting, I like to ask Mr. Lim to report in a separate report.  Mr. Lim started his lecture from his view on the world, namely the end of globalization of the world. As a concrete example, he pointed out breaking-off of global supply chains and recurring of the companies in their home countries, suspension of personnel exchange and upsurge of nationalism etc. He reported also that many countries have developed their feelings of distrust against China in their initial response against coronavirus and establishment and enforcement of the “Hong Kong National Security Act”.  Following such report, he expressed the change of the relationship among the East Asian countries in the “New Cold War” between the United States and China. Between Japan and South Korea, the biggest issue is how to keep their balance with the United States and China. China is trying to break up the relations of Japan and South Korea with the United States in the atmosphere that frictions between Japan and South Korea are getting worse. He insisted also that relations between Japan and China were shifted from “quasi-honeymoon” to “hot-China and cool-Japan” during these two years.  At first, China took leadership for Japan-China friendship relationships. However, the Chinese image in Japan is tarnishing day by day and Xi’s visiting Japan as a national guest is uncertain now. It is said that China took the initiative in China-South Korea relationships also and Mr. Lim pointed out that South Korea’s diplomacy did not take their independence. If so, and when the COVID19 would calm down, will Chinese influence become stronger at once? Firstly, in Hong Kong, the Chinese Government will make Hong Kong shift to an authoritarian regime ignoring antipathy or criticism of the United States and European countries. (Before the year 1997, Hong Kong was initiated by local government and half-colonized.)  On the other hand, China began to consider, for Taiwan, it would not be bad to keep distance between Main-Land China and Taiwan. It was an unexpected effect of COVID19. We can say it is an opposite effect against such radical policies like “Merger of Cross-Strait Relations” and “Preferential Treatment 31 agendum(恵台31カ条)“. Chinese control policy of Hong Kong made Taiwan to be under pressure. As a result of loosing of Hong Kong as a buffer zone, Taiwan’s reliance on the United States is increasing.  Mr. Lim concluded his lecture saying that “the Post-Corona Era” is the coming of “New Cold War”. Hong Kong and Taiwan will be the place of “hard-fought battle”. Though we must pay attention to the presidential election of the United States in November this year, we cannot avoid “New Cold War”, because consensus on Chinese policy was already made in the United States. Shall the world be divided into two major blocks, the United States and China?What Japan will be asked to behave hereafter is their independent activities and leadership.  Following Mr. Lim’s lecturer, we had a few comments.Firstly, Mr. SHIMOKOJI Shuji (ex-diplomat) commented as follows.The New Coronavirus issue brought about a lot of issues to international societies.  Mutual trust is a part of such issues. He pointed out, however, that we are now in the stage how to cope with our common enemy “coronavirus”.  As to an improvement of relations between Japan and China, it is desirable. But it is not important which side shall take the initiative. What is important now is how to lead international orders to constructive direction and big powers must discuss each other especially.    Professor NAM Ki-Jeong commented as follows:  When we think about international order of “Post-Corona Era” as “New-Order”, we must overcome a framework of “theory of realism” in the international politics. It became clear that we have to get rid of “identity-politics” and it is necessary to build the politics which should be put in a center of people’s lives. If we would stick to “identity-politics”, the relations between Japan and South Korea will be failed. However, when we look at political viewpoints which focus on people’s living like the COVID19, we will not be able to solves such issue if we appeal to only nationalism. The COVID19 taught politicians that identities or nationalismwould not lead to the votes. Politicians should consider how they shall leave their political legacy behind. Professor Nam concluded his comment saying that he hopes middle powered nations like Japan and Korea to establish such political legacies.  We finished the lecture and comment section after one hour and 45 minutes. As my personal impression, there were a lot of subjects which we would like to discuss taking more time and it was an interesting cafe as a researcher. And it was a thoughtful lecture for me how I, as a citizen, will develop an international order and how I will act for it. As been pointed out at a get-together meeting, personal power is limited and “identities” cannot be overcome easily by an individual. Needless to say, bad feelings or prejudice are easier to be established, if we will be in negative histories in political situations or restriction of information. Is it OK to give up at this stage? For this half year in 2020, I had a locked up feeling or thought pessimistic in the atmosphere of avoiding going out and meeting.But I believe there would be positive factors which I overlooked in such bias.  SGRA Cafe Report in Japanese (Original) Photos of the Day  Li Yanming / Specially-appointed lecturer at the University of Tokyo         Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • Xie Zhihai ”Information Sharing in the Corona Era”

     We have encountered the new coronavirus outbreak at the beginning of the year 2020. It was a very short time that people, except China, considered the coronavirus infection as somebody else’s problem.  Face masks and hand sanitizer have disappeared at the stores. Schools have closed. People, who worked for companies in the cities, have shifted to work from home quickly. At just when we thought how long such a staying-home period would be, economic activities were restarted gradually. People returned to their offices in the cities, re-opened stores and schools were restarted as well.  Those were a stream of time that I felt personally in Japan. In other countries, isolation or self-restrained life started earlier than Japan. But the number of infected persons is increasing day by day in Japan. Recently I took notice of such brilliant news that Disney Land re-opened in some countries where they restarted their economic activities.  However, do not forget the fact that there is no country which could show fine specimen for convergence of new coronavirus. On the contrary, some countries, where people restarted their economic activities, had clusters and got back to the strained situations closing their schools. There are two things which we can do. One is “we live our lives taking care of being affected”. It is kind-heartedness to the others. The second important thing: if some country could hold down infections before the coming of the second wave of coronavirus, it will be appreciated to help other countries that have a lot of infected persons.  We should consider the whole earth as one country. We could re-acknowledge that we can connect each other on the network despite it takes time if we like to move. There is no border on the line.   Amid people in the world are inclined to “nationalism”, the new coronavirus has appeared into sudden prominence. The coronavirus taught us we should not live as we like. And we must win the war against our common enemy “coronavirus” which is the one and only. It may be a good chance for us to change our view that the country, which says “our country first”, may lose the war.  After the corona, China has entered a different phase. Their aims as a country became difficult to understand. While they are developing their support to the developing countries aiding face masks, they are positive in advancement to the South China Sea. They are good friends to the WHO. But, on the other hand, they show open hostility to the United States.  Of course, there are a few points to be evaluated highly. For example, China announced genome information about the new coronavirus to the world promptly which outbreak in Wuhan. Medical facilities in the world became possible to have PCR testing by such an announcement. It is said that China has delayed in their initial response when SAAS in 2003 spread. We can say it was a good example. The United Nations system evaluates it highly actually.      Another example is the lockout of Wuhan City which is the biggest city in Hubei Province and has 11 million population. All of them had to stay at home and every means of transportation and roads were blockaded.  TV pictures, not a soul were to be seen on the street, were broadcasted in the world. It gave the world high-impact and people thought “do we have to do to such extent?” However the world took similar measures as  Wuhan and people stayed at home and public means of transportation including airplanes stopped or decreased their frequencies. Sorry to say to Wuhan citizens who have not been infected, the other governments than China could not imagine how the lockout or refraining from going-out would be if China has not decided “lockout”.  The number of infected persons are still increasing. In South Korea, where the number of infected persons was decreasing and they restarted their economic activities, the clusters have occurred in some areas. In Beijing also, the clusters occurred after lifting their quarantine and schools were asked to close. Then, how about in Japan? They reopened their economic activities knowing the situation in South Korea and China and the number of infected persons is increasing day by day. In America (in the case of states where the number of infected persons is increasing), people became possible to have eating and drinking in restaurants and bars. However, since the number of infected persons did not decrease, people were allowed only delivery or takeaway. No entry at parks or beaches of course.    What I think it noteworthy is that many countries are sharing their pictures or current situations with each other. Many people may think it quite normal. It is precious to share such information with each other now when there are restrictions in movement between countries. If South Korea would hide the clusters in nightclubs despite their restarting of economic activities being ahead of other countries, how would it be? If China hide the clusters in fresh markets in Beijing, how would it be?  Some people may think it would be all right because people can share pictures or videos in real time by Instagram or Tik_Tok.  I think it’s better if people could exchange their compliments with each other for the information which they could share. And it is good diplomacy that those countries share not only the present situation but medical information and statistic also. Because COVID19 is a common issue in international societies now. If China will keep facing the coronavirus openly and taking initiative in sharing information about medical and scientific fields, China could increase its presence in a positive sense and would be appraised in diplomatic fields.  Xie_Zhihai/Associated Professor, Kyoai Gakuen University   SGRA Kawaraban 641 in Japanese (Original)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • Antonin_Ferre “United States, Coronavirus and Protest against Racial Discrimination”

     Summer 2019, I finished my studies abroad for about seven years in Japan.  And I came to the United States which is the third country for my studying abroad.  The City Princeton, which is the base for my day-to-day life now, seems like another world to me. If I compare Princeton with Tokyo, Tokyo is one of the biggest cities in the world.  It is said a word “Campus”, which means “field” in Latin, has been used as “the premises in Princeton University”.  For the first time when we step in “the campus” of Princeton University, everybody will nod with their agreement. When I saw an old map of the latter part of the eighteen centuries, “the campus” students at that time have called “campus” jokingly, we can understand there had been nothing except some field surrounded by buildings. At present, though the number of university facilities has increased dramatically and the city itself has developed, also there is no change in its richness in nature. You can understand such richness from other living things that live symbiotically together with human beings. Starting from raccoons which are mascots of Atsumi International Foundation, squirrels, foxes, rabbits and deer, all the living things are enjoying their lives in “campus”.  The new type of coronavirus has spread in campus. During these few months, almost all the students had returned to their homes and other students who had no choice stayed back in campus inside their rooms. It added my feelings of isolation from the outer worlds and it caused me to add my sense of reality also.  During our school term when we had busy weekends, I didn’t realize much. But once I become free from restraining terms, it increased such feelings. When it’s clear during summer, many people go out for a walk.But the campus remains quiet as we can see only postgraduate students of scientific fields go to their laboratories, opened recently.    However, even in the small town in the State of New Jersey, violent social movements are occurring now. After George Floyd’s killing by the police on May 25, protest movement of discrimination against African-American started throughout the country. At present, the end of June, demonstration and riots are spreading. In the City of Princeton, except students of Princeton University, where majority of the population is white people, there was no such big demonstration as Minneapolis. It is said that, as a university, they are trying to raise consciousness of the community against racial discrimination which has been engraved in the structure and history of American society. It is said also that university, as an organization of higher education and research organization, is studying how to engage in such issues.  As one of the measurers, the name of Woodrow Wilson was deleted from the graduate student dormitory of the Faculty of Public Policy/Graduate School. President Woodrow Wilson, a graduate of Princeton University, was a great figure.  He became the President of the United States through his career of teaching and the President of Princeton University, Governor of the state of New Jersey and received Nobel Peace Prize. During his presidency services, he was evaluated for not only the establishment of the League of Nations but also contributed to the vigorous development of Princeton University.  However, he was a segregationist. When other Ivy League colleges admitted African-Americans, though the numbers were limited, Princeton University rejected their admission. When he served for the U.S. President, he introduced racial separation again in the civil service system which had been abolished before. It means he has kept his standpoint as a segregationist. According to the President of Princeton University who declared the measure, mentioned above, “Woodrow Wilson’s segregation was very important remarkably basing on the standard at that time”.  Against the deletion of such an influential name, not only in Princeton University but American history, from the name of faculty or graduate school, advocates of the conservative wing said “it is excessive political correctness” or “it is nothing but revisionism of history”. It may be a discretion of the University who shall be admired or who shall be a model of students. It is respectful that African-American students of the Faculty of Public Policy/Graduate School are reluctant to be assimilated to the person who did not admit their entrance. Anyway, deletion of the name “Woodrow Wilson” was welcomed in the community of the University and many people congratulated saying “Princeton School of Public and International Affairs”.  I never thought that American society would amid in flames of the COVID-19. I realized our campus, which seems to be sleeping, is maintaining its life and I am distracted from feelings of desolation.     SGRA Kawaraban 639 in Japanese (Original)  Antonin_Ferre / 2019 Raccoon, Princeton University (East Asia Research Center)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala
  • Xie Zhihai “Global Environment and Plastic Shopping Bags”

     On July 1 2020, charging for plastic shopping bags started in Japan. Frankly speaking, I feel it “too late”. There are two reasons.(1) As for a law for charging, Japan falls behind not only advanced countries but other foreign countries also.(2) Amid worldwide corona-virus pandemics now, it became difficult for people to understand the concept of charging shopping bags.Originally, shopping bags shall be charged for the sake of the global environment. However, the COVID-19 is everything for the people now and subject, charging for plastic bags, was digressed from the theme. I personally think that we should think about the environment more seriously putting aside the COVID-19.  In 1993, Denmark levied a tax on plastic shopping bags for the first time in the world and the ratio of using shopping bags decreased by 60%. Ireland has followed the “shopping bags tax” in 2002 and it was the first time that consumers pay a tax on a shopping bag, though it is mainstream now. According to the specialized journal “流通ニュース”(Distribution News), a manager of Recycling Promotion Division of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said as follows : By EU, in 2015, directed countries in EU to reduce the number of plastic shopping bags to less than forty bags per person by the end of the year 2025. Following this rule, EU countries made rules that plastic bags are prohibited or chargeable in supermarkets. In America, depending on counties or cities, many supermarkets charge for shopping bags (even paper shopping bags). In Canada, as in Japan, they charge on shopping bags independently at retail stores.      In Japan, people have been trying to decrease the number of shopping bags self-independently even before related laws were introduced. At super-markets and drug-stores, people who decline shopping bags were given such benefits as getting points or being discounted ¥2- /bag.  At convenient stores, however, they gave bags at free up to the last moment. On July 1, all the shopping bags became chargeable.  What people concern and pay attention now are: they do not like corona virus or other virus bacillus adhere to their “eco-bags” which they bring in and how long such bacillus will survive. I read web-site news by American Newspaper Company. According to the news, supermarkets in California have changed their rules saying “Do not bring in your eco-bags. We will give you bags (plastic or paper) free”. It is because they worry about adhesion of corona virus to eco-bags which customers bring. Actually, salespeople in supermarkets at Los Angeles and its southern county were infected by coronavirus. In California State, shopping bags have been chargeable since these several years and the culture in which people go shopping bringing their own eco-bags have been penetrated already. So, once the COVID-19 would be converged, people will bring in their eco-bags again.    According to a TV special program of “chargeable shopping bags” in Japan, coronavirus survives for four days on the surface of nylon bags which are glossy and can be wiped off. In case of cloth made, corona virus survives for one day. They did not tell about the influence of shopping bags on environment in this TV picture. They explained how managers and salespeople in supermarkets felt about their touching at eco-bags. In this program, customers, who brought in their own eco-bags and were asked whether they have washed bags, replied that they have never washed their eco-bags.  Plastic do not dissolve and never return to the nature. Once plastic flow into the sea and fish swallow them together with feed, plastic will be accumulated in fish bodies. When people know such tragic situations, we must stop using plastic bags regardless of coronavirus or others. There will be a way that they do not bring in coronavirus paying attention to sanitation. If people are afraid of the adherence of coronavirus on bags, it will be OK for them that they change bags every day. If they have only one bag, they can rotate plastic and paper bags alternately.    Only shopping bags are not everything for plastic wastes. According to the “Distribution News” mentioned above, as a reason why shopping bags became chargeable, eco bags, which are connected to the life of the people directly, can be used as an alternative for shopping bags. And in many countries in the world, they started working on shopping bags. Yes, only eco bags can be substituted for shopping bags at this moment and use of eco bags is the first and small step toward decreasing plastic wastes.  If chargeable shopping bags have started earlier than the COVID-19 in the world, peoples concern toward plastic waste would have been higher.  SGRA Kawaraban 638 in Japanese (Original)  Xie Zhihai / Associate Professor, Kyoai Gakuen University  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala     
  • CHEN_Lu “Coronavirus Influence on Educators”

     The year 2020 is a special year. The pandemic of coronavirus caused unprecedented damage and confusion and throw the world into terror. Every country in the world declared an emergency on COVID-19 one after another because it has a high infection and took human lives mercilessly. People have been forced to stay at home. This unexpected situation threatened people physically and mentally. The traditional educational system, based on face-to-face classes, became impossible and educators or students have been facing with a new trial. I, myself, am one of such educators.  Coronavirus has affected educational or studying fields very much even if it was temporary. Amid the COVID-19, the point is not how we overcome coronavirus. We, educators or students, must gaze ourselves newly how we understand our professions, how we cultivate our abilities, and how we adjust ourselves to the COVID-19.    When people formulate management strategy, they analyze circumstances, outside and inside, using “SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats) analysis”. I think it’s useful for us who are facing with new “online education” system. Through our realization of our strength and weakness, threatening against the COVID-19, and opportunity which we may get, we may be able to secure the way to go hereafter. I would like to write here my impression on my standpoint in educational circumstances.  After application of online classes, employment of new teachers was reduced in universities in many countries including America and elderly teachers retired by reason that they could not cope with online classes. There were many teachers who have worried about the situation that they cannot show their abilities and knowledge which have been cultivated through their long experiences. On the other hand, young teachers, who are superior in advanced technologies like information processing despite they may not equal in their knowledge and experiences to elderly teachers, should challenge for the development of new fields of research. I took charge of scientific technological English this year and could learn the expertise of natural science which I have never touched. I could get scientific “intellect” through online educations.    Due to online classes, teachers who could not stay on the site became possible to give lessons. In science lessons, they already gave online lessons. For example, it becomes possible to give lessons to classes in overseas universities from Japan. Fluidization of knowledge will develop not only internationalization of educators but produce a merit also that brings about close cooperation with foreign countries in educational fields. There may be a demerit, but it will be important to realize it first and try to overcome it.  Since online classes are the first experience of university educators, they may be confused much. In my case also, as there was nothing to be prepared, I bought a microphone and lighting fixtures first in my class. Reconsidering traditional way of face-to-face classes, I adopted various ideas which can give student’s feelings of presence and enjoyment using real-time-video or just video. At first, I felt burdened myself more than face-to-face lessons because it took time for preparation. As I am getting used to be, however, it became efficient gradually and I am keeping my efforts trusting myself that such skills will become my new strength and growth.  Though job markets in educational fields are reducing at this moment, I think it necessary for educators to have such actual business know-how besides their learning abilities. What I can keep overseas lessons from Japan means that overseas educators or students can keep lessons in Japan reversely. In other words, borderless fluidity and competitiveness would become more severe for educational sites hereafter. We must understand such times and consciousness first. I would like to overcome such trials hereafter through such “strength” of myself.  SGRA Kawaraban 637 in Japanese (Original)  CHEN-Lu / 2019 Raccoon, Lecturer of Waseda University, Sophia University, Meisei University      Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Sabina Koirala