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The Yomiuri Shimbun is a Japanese daily published in Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, and other major Japanese cities. It is part of the Yomiuri Group, Japan's largest media conglomerate. It was founded in 1874 and is headquartered in Tokyo.
Vital viral protection
Anna Akage

Take 5: How Nations Protect High-Tech Assets

It's part trade war, part cyber defense — and the rumblings of conflict grow louder as countries (and companies alike) maneuver to protect their high-tech assets. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently announced that Japan would tighten export controls for advanced technologies in response to new U.S. trade restrictions aimed at China, writes the Yomiuri Shimbun daily. Both business interests and geopolitics are setting off such chain reactions; for while most Western economists tend to side with the free market, politicians increasingly see the issue as a reason to protect national interests — and put virtual firewalls.

One of the most closely watched cases to spark national security concerns in the U.S., and afterward in several countries in the EU, was the case of Huawei. In 2012, a U.S. congressional committee warned that Chinese telecom giant, together with ZTE, another leading Chinese company, could pose a security threat as the hardware and mobile infrastructure equipment can be used for spying for the Chinese government. The companies denied all allegations, but in 2018 the U.S. passed a bill restricting government bodies from doing business with Huawei, ZTE and several Chinese companies due to security concerns.

U.S. government officials have said that China could order its manufacturers to create backdoors for spying inside their devices. The evolving showdown has also included the high-profile arrest in Canada of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's Chief Financial Officer and daughter of the company's founder. But the bigger questions go beyond any single case, as nations ask how (and how far to go) to protect sensitive technology beyond its own borders. Here's how the issue looks in five countries around the world:


The stakes: In just a generation, China's economy has gone from being driven by gluing sneakers to competing for the most advanced technological innovations. Jeanine Daou, a tax specialist at PwC, put it this way, in an interview with Nikkei Asian Review: "China ... appears to be implementing a longer-term strategy that recognizes its competitive advantage in manufacturing, while building towards competing for control over the real value in the modern supply chain — intellectual property."

Photo: Rishi Deep

Current security measures:

  • The export of military items is exclusively allowed for state-authorized trading companies, and dual-use items can only be exported by companies in possession of an export control license.
  • According to the new protocols, a foreign-manufactured item can be subject to Chinese export control if the content of that item is of controlled Chinese origin. Yet, the same protocols already run in the U.S. and China seems to be following a good example.

Takeaway: The country is now set to introduce a new Export Control Law, following the first draft released in 2017. The new law will block the transfer of controlled items from China to a foreign country or region, which includes Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. The analysis of the draft suggests that the new law will strengthen the government's authority to regulate the export of military, nuclear, biological, chemical and dual-use items.

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A worldwide question
Irene Caselli

Longer Lives, Dying Alone And The Things We Leave Behind

As life expectancy numbers rise, a growing number of seniors experience kodokushi (lonely death), as it's known in Japan.

TOKYO — Masazo Nonaka, 113, was the world's oldest man when he died last month on Japan's northern main island of Hokkaido in an inn that has been run by his family for four generations. With him, at the time, was his granddaughter.

Nonaka's advanced age was remarkable even by the standards of Japan, which has the world's highest life expectancy, at 84. It is noteworthy too that he didn't die alone, because in Japan — which also has one of the lowest birth rates and fastest-shrinking populations — many elderly people do. So many that there's even a term for it: kodokushi, or lonely death.

Indeed, a survey conducted by the Japenese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun shows that local governments are facing difficulties in disposing of the belongings of those who die alone. The survey says that over 1,000 public housing units are now occupied by the belongings of single residents who died alone.

Over 1,000 public housing units are now occupied by the belongings of single residents who died alone.

Bloomberg, for its part, has reported on a growing industry of cleaning companies, where lonely deaths account for 30% of overall clients.

Since about half of residents in public housing are 65 or older, local authorities are calling on the central government to establish clear rules for disposing of such belongings. Current legislation says that heirs have to be contacted for instructions, but they are often difficult to track down. Either that or there just aren't any. In one case, north-west of Tokyo in Saitama Prefecture, belongings remained undisposed of for 18 years.

Japan's elderly face many other issues beyond loneliness. Some do not have a family to rely on and live in poverty, as Philippe Pons, the Tokyo correspondent for France's Le Monde, reported. Perhaps for that reason, there's also a surprising number of senior-age criminal offenders in Japan, according to the December 2018 "White Paper on Crime," which notes that 21.1% of those arrested in 2017 were over the age of 65.

Photo: Gideon

Older offenders are usually arrested for petty theft. Some steal food to feed themselves. Others say they prefer prison to life on the threshold of poverty (or below) and loneliness. Le Monde quoted one man as saying: "Tomorrow I will go to prison to see a friend. He is not a criminal, he is my age 78 years old and he was arrested for shoplifting in a supermarket. He wanted to be arrested. In prison, he keeps warm, he is fed and if he is sick, they take care of him... One day I may have to do the same."

Kodokushi isn't an issue just in Japan. Life expectancy is rising in many countries, and women in particular — especially those without children, statisticians note — are at high risk of spending their final days alone given that they frequently outlive their partners.

So, are there any solutions?

In South Korea, a growing number of middle-aged men live alone and hence die alone, a phenomenon that the government is trying to counteract by creating neighborhood groups to pay regular visits to those who live alone. And in the United States, villages for seniors have started popping up along with a growing number of multigenerational homes.

Author Margareta Magnusson has some ideas as well. In a 2017 book titled The Gentle Art of Swedish Death-Cleaning, the Swedish writer urges people to de-clutter in preparation for death. People may not be able to choose all the circumstances of their death, but they can at least determine what to do with their belongings.

Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Foreign Ministry To Japanese Diplomats: Improve Your English

TOKYO — Japan isn't accustomed to underachievement, in government or anywhere else.

So it's significant that the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs is worried about the abilities of its diplomats to negotiate in English at a level comparable to counterparts from other parts of the world.

To remedy the problem, the ministry has decided to begin requiring new staff members to score at least 100 (out of a possible 120) on the TOEFL English proficiency test, or at least 7 (out of a possible 9) on the alternative IELTS test.

Diplomats who have not achieved the required proficiency level will be asked to brush up on their English "so they can exchange opinions as equals with their counterparts from Europe and the United States," Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun reports.

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Photo: Niko Kitsakis

Only 30% of the 30 or so prospective staff members scheduled to join the ministry in the spring have met the standard.

The new requirements are meant to set a higher goal so that the new staff's English fluency is strong enough that members would be eligible to enter prestigious universities abroad. In China and South Korea, many students become diplomats after attending universities in Europe and the United States.