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EDITORIAL |  Time to Uncover Chinese Influence Among Japanese Experts

Japan's Renewable Energy Institute having links to a Chinese state-owned energy company is a national security red flag. A full investigation is in order.



Presentation materials containing the logo of a Chinese company were submitted to organizations related to the renewable energy issue at the United Nations and the European Union. (The image has been edited to make the imprinted logo easier to see.)

Documents submitted to a governmental energy-related task force were found bearing the logo of a State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC). They were submitted by Mika Ohbayashi, director of the Renewable Energy Institute in Japan, but SGCC is a Chinese state-owned company.

Obayashi was a member of the government task force for reviewing regulations related to renewable energy.

The same logo was also discovered on materials Ms. Ohbayashi submitted at hearings of expert committees of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Financial Services Agency. In addition, they were on documents submitted when she attended meetings of United Nations and European Union-related organizations.

Connections to the Logo — or Not?

China is a totalitarian state under the control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It is the same organization that has designs on the Senkaku Islands (Ishigaki City, Okinawa), which are Japanese territory. Moreover, Beijing has never renounced the use of force to take control of Taiwan. And its ongoing frenetic military buildup poses an acute security threat to Japan. 

In China, state-owned companies and the Communist regime are one and the same. Those are the incontrovertible facts. 

Ohbayashi recently resigned from the task force, saying that she had been responsible for "misunderstanding and caused anxiety." She explained that the logo was left on when she personally reorganized materials submitted by the SGCC for a meeting sponsored by her institute. The institute itself claims, "The materials in question have absolutely no connection whatsoever to the State Grid Corporation of China."

But that does not mean this situation should be ignored or that Ohbayashi's resignation brings the curtain down on this affair. Certainty is needed that Obayashi's submissions are not part of a Chinese influence operation designed to affect Japanese government policy. 

Mika Obayashi of the Renewable Energy Institute speaks to the media at a briefing session on March 27. Tokyo (© Sankei by Shinsuke Unno)

A Full Investigation

Japan must never allow the CCP to influence its official policies.

This renewable energy task force is only one government unit that should be investigated. Hopefully, the Kishida administration will check on all government ministries and agencies to make sure that foreign influence operations have not impacted the formulation of policy.

Unfortunately, this issue has destroyed public trust in the work of the renewable energy task force. If it is determined that the task force should be halted, then shouldn't its previous proposals also be shelved? 

Taro Kono was the Cabinet minister responsible for this area and the minister in charge of regulatory reform at the time. When the issue was first discovered, he posted the following message on X (formerly Twitter): 

"Regarding the trouble caused by the lack of a checking system, we will strengthen our countermeasures in the future to ensure that similar incidents do not reoccur." 

However, are officials just fixated on the logo?

Masato Yamada, a counselor with the Council for Promotion of Regulatory Reform within the Cabinet Office, also said, "It may just have been a clerical error." 

Looking Behind the Red Flag of the Logo 

Their perspective is too narrow for an official response to a problem affecting national policy. Why wasn't their first concern whether or not the task force was the target of a Chinese influence operation? 

When this problem first came to light, Minister of State for Economic Security Sanae Takaichi said: "Energy security is one of the core issues that has a major impact on the lives of our people and the economy. We simply cannot allow interference by a foreign power." 


Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Ken Saito also said, "We will hold off conducting hearings until concerns that the institute in question has been strongly influenced by a specific company have been dispelled." 

Speaking at a press conference, Kono declared: "We have begun investigating what kind of relationship the Renewable Energy Institute has with this specific Chinese company. We will decide on the course of action after determining what the actual relationship is." 

But he made this statement only after criticism of the situation grew. Within the Cabinet, Kono should learn from Takaichi and Saito.

The logo and name of the Chinese state-owned enterprise as found in government meeting materials. (From Cabinet Office materials.)

The ASG Initiative Not In Japan's National Interest

How was Ohbayashi's appointment as a task force member? When asked, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said, "Kono approved the appointment which had been proposed by the staff of the Cabinet Office." 

That being so, Kono and the Cabinet Office bear heavy responsibility for this misbegotten personnel choice. When Kono was serving as foreign minister three of the nine members of the Foreign Ministry's Expert Panel on Climate Change belonged to the Renewable Energy Institute. Kono should explain what ties he has to the institute. 

The same institute is a strong advocate of the Asia Super Grid (ASG) initiative. It proposes connecting the power grids of Japan, China, Russia, India, Thailand, and other nations in the region. This would facilitate mutual utilization of natural energy resources such as solar, wind, and hydropower, it suggests. The institute is also participating in a non-profit organization established at the behest of China's SGCC. That organization aims to build an international power supply grid. 

Both the ASG concept and the international power grid could leave Japan's electricity supply susceptible to control by autocratic countries such as China and Russia. From both the national security and energy security perspectives, Japan's participation in such initiatives is totally untenable.

Security Clearances Required

Moreover, it is extremely dangerous to allow members of institutes that advocate initiatives harmful to the safety of the Japanese people and our national interest to become members of government advisory groups.

Diet member Yuichiro Tamaki, leader of the Democratic Party for the People, has argued this point. He says that "security clearances" should be required for individuals serving as members of councils and other government groups. Participation provides access to confidential materials relating to the nation's security. He rightly points out that access is meant to be limited to qualified individuals in the public and private sectors who have been screened. 


Tamaki was simply stating the obvious. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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