Power And Dollar

Is New Japanese Ambassador To China Sinking Your 401k?

Japan just named its new ambassador to China without much notice in the States.  But do you own Japanese companies’ stocks?  How much does China affect Japanese manufacturers who have factories in China?  Current ambassador Uichirou Niwa (丹羽宇一郎) will be replaced by Masato Kitera (木寺昌人).  Shortly after the announcement of the appointment, Euro started appreciating against Japanese Yen from 102 to 102.50 similar to US’ appreciation against Yen from 74.40 to 74.85 in 30 minutes. Although US’s currency strength maybe explained by the better than expected unemployment data.  However, USD was actually depreciating against EUR at the same time when JPY was depreciating against all currencies.

So, if Kitera’s appointment has anything to do with the JPY depreciation, what was the rationale in the market at the time?

Kitera has no diplomatic experience in China.  Neither can he speak the language.  It is certainly not an advantage for a diplomat.  However, this is also a reverse to the earlier policy of Japanese Prime Minister Noda (野田 佳彦) to use civilian (current ambassador Niwa is not a civil servant) instead of foreign ministry’s bureaucrats for Japan’s ambassador to China.  Is this a signal interpreted by the market that Prime Minister Noda influence is waning?

Kitera’s career has been mainly related to international organizations, such as foreign aid (Grant Aid Division of Foreign Ministry), Minister to UN and WTO etc.  What does say about the intent of Japan in its relations to China amid the recent controversies over the island dispute?

His skills of cooperation with many different entities are certainly valuable.  Are there no suitable candidates who have host country knowledge and diplomatic skills to smoothen the relationship?  Is this appointment part of the upcoming lower house election calculation? 

If former, then it may show some distrust of the political elite over the close relationship between the bureaucrats with China.  If latter, then this is a clear signal that Japan may become more aggressive against China over the island dispute, despite the US public announcements toward a more peaceful environment during the US election season.  As a stretch, this appointment may enlarge the diplomatic battle field since Kitera may be able to draw his knowledge in the international institution areas.

If Japan actually cannot feel confident about the diplomatic abilities among the China experienced bureaucrats, then this appointment further shows the talent shortage of Japan, now reaching a higher level of the civil servants than previously thought. 

Since 1995, Japan ambassador to China has been around 60 years old, compared to US to China around 57 and China to Japan around 54.  Japan’s labor force has aged tremendously over the two decades without back fill.  The death of Nishimiya (西宮 伸一), the Japan to China ambassador to be, certainly was an accident, although indicative of Japan’s talent pool.  This appointment may serve as an additional indication that Japan is running out of candidates to manage its complicated affairs against a rising power.

This may further affect its trading strength in its future trade negotiation against China in the China, Korea and Japan trilateral relationships.  Export heavy companies in Japan will be further negatively impact, such as auto manufacturers.

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October 5, 2012 - Posted by | China, finance, Investment, Japan, opinion, politics, stock, trading

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