Category Archives: BUSINESS

China’s new military leaders

Author: James Char, RSIS

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 19th Congress all but confirmed Xi Jinping’s status as China’s first paramount leader since Deng Xiaoping. The incorporation of Xi’s governance philosophy ‘Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era’ into the Party constitution was interpreted by China watchers as conclusive evidence of his unassailable position in the CCP hierarchy.

Alongside the promotion of Xi’s key aides — Li Zhanshu and Zhao Leji — to the CCP Politburo Standing Committee, a cohort of new civilian leaders associated with Xi also gained membership to the Politburo.

Soldiers of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) take part in a military parade to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the army at the Zhurihe military training base in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, 30 July 2017 (Photo: Reuters/Stringer).

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Xi’s pre-eminent status in Chinese politics is not confined to the structures of government. By reducing the number of uniformed members in the Central Military Commission (CMC) — the body responsible for running the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) — from 10 to six, Xi has further boosted his politico-military clout.

The new CMC membership is …continue reading


Double-end commission still at high levels

According to an article in ZAi Online, some of Japan’s major real estate agencies are collecting double-end commissions on over half of their sales. Collecting brokerage fees from both the buyer and seller may be illegal in some countries, but is a legal and common practice in Japan. Many times the buyer or seller will be unaware as there are no duties to disclose this to the customer.

In some companies, the agency has represented both the buyer and seller for as many as two-thirds of all transactions. Agencies are heavily dependent on this practice as it makes up a significant portion of their annual sales, and it is not likely that heavy regulation will be introduced to curb this behavior.

In early 2016, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) introduced reporting requirements for agencies that use the REINS online listing database. Agencies with exclusive-listing agreements are obligated to update the status of the property on the database if an offer has been received. This is an attempt to boost transparency in the real estate market, but appears to have had a limited effect.

O◇ 71% 5.54%
M◇ 66% 5.39%
S◇ 62% 5.23%
D◇ 45% 4.69%
C◇ 36% 4.40%
T◇ 28% 4.15%
N◇ 15% 3.74%
*Agency names appear in the original article but are not being published above.
*The maximum brokerage fee that can be collected from one side in a transaction is 3% + 60,000 Yen + sales tax. An agency collecting an average brokerage fee of over 3% is likely to have represented both the buyer and seller.

Whether you are a buyer or seller, relying on an agency that prioritizes double-end commission presents issues for you as a customer. It is similar to hiring a lawyer to represent both sides in a court case.

As a buyer, that agency is more likely to only show you properties on their books …continue reading


International Casino Operators Ready to Roll the Dice in Osaka

The wheels of government can grind slowly at times. It took some 15 years of back-and-forth political infighting for Japan to legalise casino gambling, as the parliament did in December 2016. But it will still be at least five years, experts say, before you will be able to place blackjack and roulette bets in a Japanese casino.

A Long History of Betting

Japan is not a stranger to gambling. Games of chance, especially card games, were popular with ancient nobility five hundred years ago. The average Japanese citizen had neither the time nor the money to indulge the vice. When Portuguese sailors arrived in the islands in 1549 they brought with them a simplified 48-card European deck and simpler card games. These made gambling quicker and more accessible and betting became so popular among Japanese citizens that gambling on card games was banned when Japan closed its doors to the West in the 1600s.

Lotteries, which began appearing about the same time, were still available for a couple of hundred years before being shut down in 1842. After World War II, the Japanese government re-started the nationwide lotteries known as Takarakuji, or “treasure lottery.” The funds raised went into government coffers but today are distributed to charitable organizations.

In the meantime gambling in Japan had passed the nation’s Criminal Code in 1907 that restricted legalised gambling only to horse and bicycle racing. Later, motorboat and motorcycle betting were sanctified, as well. More comprehensive anti-gambling laws were passed in the 1990s in an effort to thwart organized crime.

Societal Ills and Underwhelming Support

Although opportunities to bet are limited, an estimated three million Japanese citizens are said to be addicted to gambling. The most visible culprit in the anti-gambling debate are Pachinko parlors where pinball-like machines draw thousands of patrons daily. Since gambling for cash is …continue reading


Can Japan accept itself as a nation of immigrants?

Dang Nguyen Thuc Vien, centre, the daughter of refugees from South Vietnam, interprets for a local Vietnamese resident at a hospital in Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo. What constitutes an 'immigrant' in Japan 'has not been clearly defined'. (Photo: Reuters/Yuya Shino).

Author: Eriko Suzuki, Kokushikan University

‘Immigrants’ is a word more commonly heard in Japan in recent years. One reason for this is the need to respond to the country’s shrinking population. As of 1 October 2016, Japan’s total population was estimated to have dropped for the sixth straight year. The rate of population decline has also grown consecutively for each of those six years. The share of elderly people in Japan’s population is the highest in the world, and is increasing at a pace seen nowhere else.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research (IPSS) estimates that in the year 2040, the total population of Japan will be 110.92 million compared with roughly 126 million today. Of this total, the productive population — those aged 15–64 — will account for 59.78 million and those aged 65 and over will account for 35.3 per cent. The IPSS estimates that in 2065, these figures will be 88.08 million, 45.29 million and 38.4 per cent, respectively.

It may be unrealistic to suggest that Japan ‘replace’ its declining population and labour shortage solely through migration. But if depopulation is set to harm Japanese society, it is only natural to start considering increasing immigration.

Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took back the reins of government in December 2012 and began promoting his ‘Abenomics’ growth strategy, depopulation has come under the spotlight as a key ‘problem’ for Japan. To achieve sustainable development even with population decline, women, elderly people and young people would all be called on to mobilise. Within this context ‘utilising foreign human resources’ has been promoted and related policies quickly implemented.

The government has expanded its acceptance of foreign national ‘rotation-type’ labourers — unaccompanied workers with a maximum limit on how long they can stay in Japan. But whether this is the appropriate way to address …continue reading


Roppongi has the lowest rental yields in Tokyo

According to Tokyo Kantei, brand new apartments within walking distance of Roppongi Station had the lowest rental yields in greater Tokyo with an estimated gross return of 2.34%. Across greater Tokyo the average gross yield on a new apartment was 4.44%, and as high as 6.19% for 30 year old apartments.

Yields reflect risk and tend to be lower in areas with high rental and sales demand. They also tend to be higher for older buildings to reflect a variety of factors such as higher maintenance costs, lower rental demand and rents that decline at a slower rate than property values.

Yields are generally lower in luxury buildings compared to cheaply built investment-grade buildings. Apartments in the 14-year old Roppongi Hills complex have gross yields in the low 2% range, while The Westminster Roppongi building located just behind Roppongi Hills and built in the same year, has gross yields in the high 2% range. The Roppongi Tokyo, a 39-storey luxury residential tower built in 2011, has above-average gross yields of around 3.4%.

Azabu Juban

Brand new apartments near Azabu Juban station had an average gross yield of 3.33%, while the average gross yield on a 30 year old apartment was only slightly better at 3.92%. Azabu Juban is a prime neighborhood in the middle of Tokyo and yields are naturally lower as a result.

The lowest rental yields in greater Tokyo by station:

[1] Roppongi (Minato): 2.34% Ushigome-Kagurazaka (Shinjuku): 3.69%
[2] Hamamatsucho (Minato): 2.93% Hiroo (Shibuya): 3.73%
[3] Yotsuya (Shinjuku): 2.94% Hanzomon (Chiyoda): 3.81%
[4] Hiyoshi (Yokohama): 2.94% Azabu Juban (Minato): 3.92%
[5] Oiso (Kanagawa): 3.13% Setagaya (Setagaya): 4.16%

Source: Tokyo Kantei, October 31, 2017.

…continue reading