Sunday, June 16, 2024

Monday Asia Events June 17, 2024

COMPLEXITIES, DISCONTINUITIES, AND UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF US INTERNATIONAL TAX RULES: OPTIONS FOR CHANGE. 6/17-18/2024, HYBRID. Sponsor: American Enterprise Institute. Speakers Include: Kimberly S. Blanchard, Law Office of Kimberly S. Blanchard, P.C.; Kara L. Mungovan, Partner, Davis Polk & Wardwell; David G. Noren, Partner, McDermott Will & Emery; Paul W. Oosterhuis, Of Counsel, Skadden; John Bates, Principal, Deloitte; George Callas, Executive Vice President of Public Finance, Arnold Ventures; Chip Harter, Senior Policy Adviser (Ret.), Washington National Tax Services, PricewaterhouseCoopers; Michael J. Caballero, Partner, Covington & Burling; Ronald Dabrowski, Principal, KPMG; Layla J. Asali, Member, Miller & Chevalier; Paul W. Oosterhuis, Of Counsel, Skadden; Philip Wagman, Partner, Clifford Chance; Michael J. Caballero, Partner, Covington & Burling; Ronald Dabrowski, Principal, KPMG.

HOW DOES THE ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR END? A CONVERSATION WITH AMBASSADOR DAVID SATTERFIELD. 6/17, 10:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Carnegie. Speakers: Ambassador David M. Satterfield, director, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy; Aaron David Miller, senior fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE WASHINGTON SUMMIT: A CONVERSATION WITH NATO SECRETARY GENERAL JENS STOLTENBERG. 6/17, 11:00am-Noon (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Wilson Center. Speakers: Ambassador Mark A. Green, President, CEO, Wilson Center; Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General, NATO; Philip Reeker, Chair, Global Europe Program, Albright Stonebridge Group, Department of State.

IRAQ AND THE UNITED STATES: RETURN TO THE STATUS QUO OR CALM BEFORE THE STORM? 6/17, 2:00-3:00pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Quincy. Speakers: Sajad Jiyad, Fellow, Century International, Director, Shia Politics Working Group; Simona Foltyn, Independent Journalist, Documentary Filmmaker based in the Middle East; Mohammed Shummary, Professor, Al-Nahrain University, College of Political Science, Baghdad, Chairman, Sumeria Foundation for International Affairs; Steven Simon, Professor of Practice, Middle East Studies, Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies of the University of Washington, Senior Research Fellow, Quincy Institute; Adam Weinstein, Research Fellow, Quincy Institute.

UKRAINE ON THE DIPLOMATIC FRONT. 6/17, 3:00pm (CEST), 9:00am (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: International Crisis Group (ICG). Speakers: Alissa de Carbonnel, Deputy Director, Europe and Central Asia Program, ICG; Richard Gowan, UN Director, ICG; Simon Schlegel, Senior Analyst, Ukraine, ICG; Oleg Ignatov, Senior Analyst, Russia, ICG. 

AMERICAN DEMOCRACY IS UNDER THREAT. HOW DO WE PROTECT IT? 6/17, 10:00-11:00am (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Brookings. Speakers: William A. Galston, Ezra K. Zilkha Chair, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, Brookings; Vanessa Williamson, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, Brookings; Steven R. Levitsky, Professor of Government, Harvard University; Co-author, "How Democracies Die".

PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE: A LONG-RUN VIEW OF GLOBALIZATION. 6/17, 1:00-2:00pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Peterson Institute for International Economics. Speaker: Christopher M. Meissner, Professor of Economics, University of California, Davis, Author of One from the Many: The Global Economy Since 1850.

IRAN RAMPS UP ITS NUCLEAR PROGRAM. 6/17, 2:00pm (EDT), VIRTUAL. Sponsor: Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA). Speakers: Jonathan Ruhe, Director of Foreign Policy, JINSA; Gabriel Noronha, Fellow, JINSA, Former Special Advisor, Iran Action Group, U.S. Department of State.

REPORT RELEASE: DETERRING CHINA THROUGH NONMILITARY COSTS TO PRESERVE PEACE IN THE TAIWAN STRAIT. 6/17, 3:00-4:00pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Hudson. Speakers: John Lee, Senior Fellow, Hudson; Thomas J. Duesterberg, Senior Fellow, Hudson. REPORT.  

A COMPARISON ON GENDER REPRESENTATION IN HIGHER EDUCATION AND ECONOMICS IN JAPAN AND THE UK. 6/17, 6:45pm (BST), HYBRID. Sponsor: Japan Society UK. Speaker: Liliana Harding, Associate Professor, Economics, University of East Anglia.

Friday, June 14, 2024

The Option for a Snap Election in Japan has Disappeared

Nothing to see here

By Takuya Nishimura, Senior Fellow, Former Editorial Writer for The Hokkaido Shimbun
The views expressed by the author are his own and are not associated with The Hokkaido Shimbun, You can find his blog, J Update here.
June 10, 2024. Special to Asia Policy Point

Some newspapers have reported that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has abandoned the idea of dissolving the House of Representatives (Lower House) and holding a snap election. This was seen as an option for Kishida to preserve his administration notwithstanding its low popularity. But considering public skepticism about Kishida’s handling of the slush fund scandal in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the party’s recent electoral defeats, this option is no longer viable.

The Asahi Shimbun reported on June 4 that Kishida was about to make a final decision not to call a snap election based on multiple sources in the Kishida administration. Yomiuri Shimbun followed Asahi the next day with a report that Kishida had told some of his allies of his decision.

Kishida had hoped to call for a general election at the end of the Diet session (June 23), by which time an official visit to the United States in April and a tax cut in June would have raised his approval ratings enough to secure his reelection When these events did not improve his popularity, Kishida was forced to give up that option.

“I am now involved in some political issues which cannot be postponed. I am thinking about nothing but to bring outcomes on those issues,” Kishida told reporters on the day Asahi published its story at the top of the front page. Kishida will focus now on achieving a positive economic cycle with wage and price hikes and on repairing public confidence in politics.

It is possible that both Asahi or Yomiuri interviewed Kishida. Both reports were based on unnamed sources inside the Kishida administration or the LDP. Politicians often seek anonymity in the media when they face an important decision, like calling a snap election. They leak information to reporters to control the situation.

The LDP’s loss of seats in all three by-elections, including the by-election in Tokyo in which the LDP could not even field a candidate, undermined Kishida’s credibility as a leader for an election. It was obvious to most lawmakers in both the LDP and Komeito that they would face disastrous consequences if Kishida called a snap election in the current political environment.

With no hope of fielding a winnable candidate in the Tokyo gubernatorial election next month, the LDP is seeking an opportunity to support incumbent, Yuriko Koike, who left the LDP seven years ago.

Kishida’s power to dissolve the Lower House is widely believed to stem from Article 7 of the Constitution. This Article provides that the Emperor may dissolve the House of Representatives “with the advice and approval of the Cabinet.” Lawmakers have long interpreted “advice and approval” to authorize a prime minister to call a snap election whenever he or she likes.

Article 69 presents another way to dissolve the Lower House. It states that, if the House passes a no-confidence resolution or rejects a confidence resolution, the Cabinet will resign en masse, unless the House of Representatives is dissolved within ten days. If the Cabinet relies on Article 7 to dissolve the Lower House, the Cabinet can survive resolution a vote of no-confidence at least until the new Lower House is convened after a general election.

The prime minister’s exclusive authority to call a snap election is a matter of constitutional interpretation. But Kishida cannot do so unilaterally. Were he to try, the LDP leaders could immediately begin the process of replacing him as the president and passing a non-confidence resolution in the House of Representatives. Calling a snap election effectively requires the consent of the LDP leaders.

They are currently opposed to a snap election because it would benefit only Kishida and not the LDP. Kishida has alienated his closest ally, former prime minister Taro Aso, by negotiating a compromise with Komeito and the Ishin on revisions to the Political Funds Control Act. Through this compromise, as well as the decisions to dissolve his own faction in January and to attend the Political Ethics Council in the Diet in February, Kishida has eroded his political basis.

The LDP Secretary General, Toshimitsu Motegi, has not concealed his ambition to succeed Kishida. He has been traveling around Japan to publicize his work on political reform. Former prime minister Yoshihide Suga, who unwillingly handed his seat over to Kishida in 2021, has held nighttime meetings with LDP leaders, inviting speculation that he may be seeking a kingmaker role.

The only way for Kishida to survive this crisis is to improve his approval rating. However, there has been no significant boost to his popularity, even after the Diet passed a bill to increase the birth rate, a principal policy objective for Kishida. The system of tax cuts starting June is too complicated for the taxpayers to realize any benefit soon. And Kishida’s trilateral summit meeting with the leaders of China and Republic of Korea did not garner much public attention.

From the beginning of his administration, Kishida has been promoting his policies as a “new form of capitalism.” His goals included wage increases and the Digital Garden City Nations initiative. The slush fund scandal, however, has interrupted any progress toward these objectives.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Monday Asia Events June 10, 2024

ALL RECONSTRUCTION IS LOCAL: A FORUM ON THE EVE OF THE UKRAINE RECOVERY CONFERENCE. 6/10, 1:30-6:30pm (CET), HYBRID. Sponsor: German Marshall Fund  of the United States. Speakers: Alina Inayeh, Non-Resident Fellow, Bucharest office; Andrew Friendly, Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Policy, Autodesk; Andriy Moskalenko, First Deputy Mayor, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development, City of Lviv; Bogdan Zawadewicz, Head of Geopolitical Risk Analysis, Polish Development Bank; Bruce Stokes, Visiting Senior Fellow, Washington, D.C. office; Filiep Decorte, Chief, Programme Development Branch, UN-Habitat; Garry Poluschkin, Consultant, Country Coordinator for Ukraine, German Economic Team; Heather A. Conley, President, German Marshall Fund of the United States, Washington, D.C. office; Henrik Winther, Director, EU Neighborhood Policy Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark; Jacob Kirkegaard, Senior Fellow, Bucharest office; Josh Rudolph, Senior Fellow, Head of the Transatlantic Democracy Working Group Washington, D.C. office; Larysa Marchenko, Partner, Strategy, Transactions, Ukraine Reconstruction International Lead, EY; Maksym Svysenko, Advisor, Chairman, Dnipro Regional State Administration; Marcus Lippold, Team Leader, Green Deal Ukraine Service; Mark D. Simakovsky, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Europe and Eurasia, USAID; Martina Boguslavets, Head, Founder, MEZHA Anti-Corruption Center; Mark Speich, State Secretary for Federal, European, International Affairs, State of North Rhine-Westphalia; Meg Platt, Senior Development Manager, Washington, D.C. office; Nathanael Liminski, Minister for Federal, European, International Affairs, Media, State of North Rhine-Westphalia; Nataliia Katser-Buchkovska, Energy security, transition expert, Former Member of Parliament of Ukraine; Natalie Jaresko, Managing Director, Turnaround, Restructuring Strategy Practice, EY-Parthenon; Oleksiy Povolotskiy, Head Office, Energy Infrastructure Recovery, Supervisory Board Member, DTEK; Oleksandr Syenkevych, Mayor, City of Mykolaiv, Ukraine; Paul Costello, Senior Program Manager, GMF Cities, Berlin office; Penny Pritzker, Special Representative for Ukraine Recovery and Reconstruction; Sergiy Orlov, Deputy Mayor of Mariupol, Ukraine; Taras Byk, Board Member, Agency for Recovery and Development; Valeriia Ivanova, Deputy Head, State Agency for Reconstruction and Development of Infrastructure of Ukraine; Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Guido Goldman Distinguished Scholar, Berlin office; Viktor Pavlushchyk, Head, National Agency, Corruption Prevention of Ukraine. 

AVOIDING WORLD WAR III: MANAGING THREATS FROM RUSSIA, CHINA, AND AI. 6/10, 10:00-11:00am (CDT), 11:00am-Noon (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Speakers: Ian Bremmer, President, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media; Kevin Rudd, Australian Ambassador to the US; Zeenat Rahman, Executive Director, Institute of Politics.

U.S.-ROK BILATERAL DIALOGUE FOR STRENGTHENING U.S.-ROK ALLIANCE. 6/10, 1:00-2:40pm (EDT), HYBRID. Sponsor: CSIS, Korea National Diplomatic Academy. Speakers: Victor Cha, Senior Vice President for Asia and Korea Chair; Park Cheol Hee, Chancellor, Korea National Diplomatic Academy; Lee Moon-hee, Senior Executive Director, Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security; Yoo Ji Yeong, Senior Specialist, Center for Economic Security and Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Emily Benson, Director, Project on Trade and Technology and Senior Fellow, Scholl Chair in International Business; Ellen Kim, Deputy Director, Senior Fellow, Korea Chair.

UNDER PRESSURE: CHINA'S COERCIVE CAMPAIGN IN THE TAIWAN STRAIT. 6/10, 1:00-2:00pm (EDT), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: Project 2049 Institute. Speakers: Ben Lewis, PLA Tracker; Dan Blumenthal, American Enterprise Institute; Allison Schwartz, House Foreign Affairs Committee; Project 2049 Institute Chairman Randall G. Schriver; Project 2049 Senior Director Michael Mazza .

DEFINING TAIWAN AND BEING TAIWANESE: THE EVOLVING NATURE OF TAIWANESE IDENTITY & ITS IMPLICATIONS FOR FUTURE POLICY. 6/10, 4:00-6:00pm (PST), IN PERSON ONLY. Sponsor: Institute of East Asian Studies, UC Berkeley. Speakers: Evan Dawley, Associate Professor of History, Goucher College; Christine Lin, Director of Training & Technical Assistance, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS), University of California College of the Law, San Francisco; Chiaoning Su, Associate Professor, Oakland University; Director, Barry M. Klein Center for Culture and Globalization, Oakland University; James Lee, Assistant Research Fellow, Institute of European and American Studies, Academia Sinica (Taiwan), Affiliated Researcher, UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation.

Cooperation on Japan’s Political Reform Bill

Fraught Relationships

By Takuya Nishimura, Senior Fellow, Former Editorial Writer for The Hokkaido Shimbun
The views expressed by the author are his own and are not associated with The Hokkaido Shimbun
You can find his blog, J Update here.
June 3, 2024. Special to Asia Policy Point

Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) President and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, reached a deal on a political reform bill with the leaders of Komeito and Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Innovation Party) on May 31. Komeito and Ishin plan to vote this week for the LDP’s revised Political Funds Control Act (PFCA) in the House of Representatives. The bill is expected to pass the Diet by the end of the current session.
Kishida has been saying that he would make every effort to pass a bill in this Diet session. The agreement between the two parties is a step forward for Kishida in stabilizing his administration, which has been damaged by the slush fund scandal.
However, it is unlikely that the success in reaching a deal with Ishin will move the needle much on Kishida’s low approval ratings. An option for Kishida is to call a snap election at the end of current session of the Diet. This is not a realistic option as Kishida would need the basic support of the LDP, which he does not have.
A few weeks ago, the LDP and Komeito reached a rough consensus on a bill that would revise the PFCA. The agreement did not, however, resolve two issues. One was the yen threshold for the mandatory disclosure of the name and other details of a purchaser of tickets to a fundraising party. The current threshold is ¥200,000. The LDP would lower it to ¥100,000, but Komeito has insisted on a ¥50,000 threshold.
The second issue was regulation of the policy activities fund – money that a party gives to a lawmaker presumably for campaigning or other political activity, but neither the party nor the lawmaker is required to disclose any details about the use of the funds.   Komeito has urged that all the details of these funds be reported. The LDP has proposed only that the purpose of expenditures be disclosed. 
Since then and at the eleventh hour, Kishida has compromised. In a meeting with the Chief Representative of Komeito, Natsuo Yamaguchi, almost on the deadline day for legislation to be passed in the current session of the Diet, Kishida agreed to set the yen threshold for party ticket disclosures at ¥50,000. Kishida apparently acted on his own initiative without consulting LDP members who likely would have resisted.
Immediately after his meeting with Yamaguchi, Kishida unexpectedly met with the leader of Ishin, Nobuyuki Baba. Critical of the LDP’s response to the slush fund scandal, Ishin had submitted its own bill to amend the PFCA. The Ishin bill would require the disclosure of the receipts of the policy activity fund ten years after payments had been made. Kishida agreed to add this provision to the LDP bill.
“I offered an ambitious deal, because public confidence in politics would not be restored unless the bill passes the current Diet,” Kishida told reporters. The leaders of Komeito and Ishin were satisfied with each of their agreements with Kishida. “It was a great decision (of Kishida)” said Yamaguchi. Baba boasted that his party’s offer had been accepted by the LDP 100 percent.
Considering LDP’s lack of a majority in the Upper House, some cooperation with other parties is essential to move the LDP bill forward. With help from Komeito and Ishin, Kishida will be able to implement his promise to pass the bill in this session. For the LDP, the deal would allow fundraising parties and policy activity funds to continue albeit subject to some restrictions. 
Komeito has been reluctant to help the unpopular Kishida administration, but only through a coalition with LDP can the party exercise any influence in the government.
It was also unusual for Ishin to help Kishida. Ishin has distanced itself from the LDP to avoid becoming enmeshed in the inappropriate control of political funds. But the alternative to working with the LDP would be for Ishin to align itself with the opposition parties – the Constitutional Democratic Party (CDP) and the Japan Communist Party – a result that would be anathema to a conservative party such as Ishin. Defeats in the by-elections in Nagasaki and Tokyo in April also prompted Ishin to reconsider its stance as an opposition party.
The revised LDP bill does not include proposals from other opposition parties. The CDP has been arguing that the law should prohibit not only fundraising parties and the policy activity fund, but also donations from corporations and organizations. The head of CDP, Kenta Izumi, has said that the LDP bill falls short of fundamental political reform. The CDP is likely to criticize the cooperation among the LDP, Komeito and Ishin as “badgers in the same hole.”
The approach to the LDP bill will restructure political relationships in the Diet. Ishin is likely to move ever closer to the LDP. This will make Komeito uneasy. In any case, it remains unlikely that the cooperation among the three parties will rise to the level of electoral cooperation. Political coalitions often lead to integrated candidates in each electoral district. None of the three parties seem ready to do that.
While establishing a new cooperative framework in the Diet, Kishida generated more frustration in the LDP. On the day before his meetings with Komeito and Ishin, Kishida met with LDP Vice-president, Taro Aso, and Secretary General, Toshimitsu Motegi.  According to news reports, the party elders told Kishida not to compromise on the regulation of fundraising parties.
In the view of LDP members, Kishida decided to deal with Komeito and Ishin to preserve his administration at the expense of the financial needs of the LDP’s lawmakers. It is yet another unilateral decision by Kishida, which parallels with the dissolution of his faction in January and his attendance at the political ethics council in February. Kishida is becoming so isolated in his own party that calling a snap election is increasingly difficult.