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What's a Chinese Logo Doing on Renewable Energy Task Force Documents

Finding the Chinese logo on Japanese task force documents has raised concerns over the integrity and independence of Japanese and international energy policies.



Explanatory materials from the Cabinet Office regarding the issue of watermarks with logos of Chinese state-owned enterprises. (Provided)

A Chinese logo belonging to a state-owned company was found on Japanese Cabinet Office task force documents presented at a March 22 meeting. An external party, Agora Research Institute director Nobuo Ikeda, raised the matter the next day on March 23. The Cabinet Office's Council for Regulatory Reform (Council) has acknowledged the incident via its official X account (formerly Twitter). 

Nevertheless, this seemingly innocuous oversight has sparked debate about the extent of foreign influence on Japan's energy policy. Minister for Economic Security Sanae Takaichi commented, "We cannot permit interference in (our energy policies) from foreign nations." 

As the controversy unfolds, there are questions about the domestic and international implications. Concerns about national security and the integrity of expert consultation place Japan at a critical juncture in its energy policy. Democratic Party for the People (DPFP) opposition leader Yuichiro Tamaki asserted, "National security is more important than increasing renewable energy." 

Task Force Oversight

The implicated committee is the Task Force for Comprehensive Review of Laws and Regulations for Renewable Energy and Other Resources. Its role is to review and update renewable energy regulations. 

Task force member Mika Ohbayashi submitted the logo-bearing materials during its meetings on December 25, 2023, and March 22, 2024. A private-sector task force member, Ohbayashi is director of the Tokyo-based climate advocacy group Renewable Energy Institute (REI). Reports indicate that the documents displayed the name and logo of the Chinese electric company, State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC).

According to the Council, REI held several symposiums in the past which a State Grid representative attended. When citing materials from these previous conferences, it said Ohbayashi neglected to remove the company's logo from the PowerPoint template. 

On March 23, the Council issued a statement on X about the issue. "There are no personal or capital ties between the Institute and the Chinese government or corporations," it declared. 


Ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) member Taro Kono is the Minister of State for Regulatory Reform. On March 23, Kono posted about the issue on X. Apologizing for "the disruption caused by the oversight," he pledged to "strengthen measures to prevent future incidents."

Mika Obayashi, Director-General of the Renewable Energy Foundation, holds a press conference in the afternoon of March 27 in Tokyo. (©Kyodo)

Who Is Mika Ohbayashi?

Mika Ohbayashi is something of an enigma. Although public records state she was born in Oita Prefecture and grew up in Fukuoka Prefecture, her nationality is unclear. 

Moreover, her academic background and career trajectory are also peculiar. After graduating from a translation vocational school and teaching English, she transitioned to the Citizens' Nuclear Information Center. The Center describes itself as "an anti-nuclear public interest group." Following this, she joined the Renewable Energy Institute before Kono appointed her to the task force. How her academic credentials qualified her to advise the government on energy policy is unclear. 

Media have also speculated about her relationship with the Chinese Communist Party. In one photo, a picture of what appears to be former Chinese premier Zhu Rongji hangs behind her. 

Lawmakers have been quick to point out that this is more than just a matter of administrative carelessness. They observed that the more harrowing question is to what extent outside governments are influencing Japan's energy policies. 

Minister Takaichi addressed the controversy in a March 26 press conference. "Energy security is a core security issue that profoundly affects the lives and economic activities of our citizens," she said. Takaichi also stressed the need for "a swift and thorough investigation followed by appropriate action." 

Yoshimasa Hayashi, the Chief Cabinet Minister, echoed Takaichi's sentiments in an earlier press conference on March 25. "We must, of course, ensure no country interferes with our energy security," he affirmed. 

International Implications

Moreover, the ramifications are not limited to Japan. On March 27, it emerged that Ohbayashi had previously submitted documents bearing the same Chinese logo at United Nations and European Union meetings. The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) used her documents in its October 2020 policy dialogue. Ohbayashi also provided documents with the same logo to a European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) meeting in December 2021. 

There is further concern that Japanese speakers using Chinese company logos in their materials at international conferences could generate misconceptions about the relationship. SGCC's company logo appeared on the top right corner of Ohbayashi's slides at these meetings. As of noon on March 27, the logo-bearing documents were still accessible on ESCAP and EESC's respective homepages.  


On March 27, Ohbayashi held a press conference, announcing her resignation from the task force. "I understand the concerns and misunderstandings my actions have caused," she said. "Such  carelessness is inexcusable." 

Regarding suspicions of Beijing's involvement in Japan's energy policies, Ohbayashi denied any wrongdoing. "I want to clarify: this incident has nothing to do with external influence or distorting our nation's energy policy. Referencing data from foreign governments or companies is common practice," she argued.

However, Ohbayashi confessed that the REI had worked with SGCC through its Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO). The State Grid Corporation established this program in 2016 with the aim of developing a global electricity network. Ohbayashi stated that REI's dealings with GEIDCO had become "infrequent" since 2020. 

Minister Taro Kono attends a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office on August 1, 2023.(© Sankei by Yasuhiro Yajima)

Official Distancing from REI

Both the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) and the Financial Agency Service have invited Ohbayashi to energy policy hearings. Those hearings took place in February 2024 and March 2021, respectively. 

METI Minister Ken Saito commented on the controversy in a press conference on March 26. He explained, "We sought to gather various perspectives to inform our discussions. That is why we invited (Ohbayashi). Listening to different opinions does not indicate any distortion of policy." 

Nevertheless, he stated, "We will investigate why materials from experts participating in a neutral capacity contained watermarks from a specific company. Until we have addressed these significant concerns, we will refrain from seeking opinions (from the Institute)."

The Problem with Private Sector Involvement

DPFP leader Tamaki has long questioned the Institute's involvement in energy policy. In March 2018, his party raised the matter at the House of Councillors Committee on Economy, Trade, and Industry. 

On February 19, 2018, Kono, then-foreign minister, attended the second meeting of the Advisory Panel on Climate Change. In a March 27 post on X, Tamaki said three of that panel's nine members were Institute members: "(DPFP member) Yoshifumi Hamano questioned bias in member selection and potential predetermined position talks resulting from it," he wrote. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' explanation that the Institute's opinion did not reflect the ministry's was awkward and strained." 

Prioritizing National Security

In a March 26 press conference, Tamaki hinted at Japan's increasing vulnerability due to its shift to renewable energy. He claimed: "During his tenure as defense minister [2019-20], Kono established a policy to prioritize integrating renewable energy into Self-Defense Force (SDF) facilities. These facilities now run on 50% renewable energy." Tamaki observed that "electricity consumption indicates the activities of the recipients. Receiving electricity from foreign entities would make the SDF's activities transparent." 


SGCC has been acquiring and monopolizing electricity networks in various countries, including Australia. According to a 2019 South China Morning Post article, SGCC also owns 40% of the Philippines' national electricity grid. The head of the Philippines' national transmission corporation acknowledged China's capability to cut off the entire power supply instantly. Japan should proceed with caution if it wants to avoid a similar fate. 


Author: Daniel Manning

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