Chinese Company Logo: Excessive Activities of Govt Discussion Forum Are Concerning

The discovery of a document bearing the logo of a Chinese company at the Cabinet Office’s discussion forum on Japanese energy policy reportedly resulted from a careless mistake made by an expert who submitted the document.

Nevertheless, it is a problem that the matter raised suspicions that Japan’s energy policy might be distorted by China’s intentions. Criticism of such thoughtlessness is unavoidable.

The Chinese company’s logo was on a document submitted by a member of the task force for a comprehensive review of renewable energy regulations. The task force was established in 2020 by Taro Kono, the minister in charge of civil service reform, as his own private discussion forum.

According to the government’s investigative report on the matter, the member is an official of the Renewable Energy Institute, which aims to promote solar and wind power. She received digital data from China’s state-run power company, State Grid Corporation of China, at an international conference organized by the institute in South Korea in 2016.

The data was related to China’s vision of connecting the entire Asian region with solar and other power grids. The data contained the logo of the State Grid Corporation of China, but the member replaced part of the data with other content including some intended to promote renewable energy in Japan and submitted the revised data to the panel.

The member said she did not notice the logo, but she resigned from the task force in response to criticism. Regarding the issue, the government concluded that “there was no evidence of undue influence from China.”

However, this does not mean that there were no problems with the way the discussion forum operated.

The forum has repeatedly urged the government to expand the use of renewable energy, including a request to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry to formulate a plan to establish nationwide recharging facilities for electric vehicles.

The government guidelines governing the role of private discussion forums stipulate that they “are merely forums for the exchange of opinions and discussion for administration management, unlike legally established councils and other bodies.”

It must be said that the activities of Kono’s discussion forum, which has been making various demands on the government, have deviated from the guidelines. It was only appropriate that Kono, after receiving a warning from Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi, subsequently abolished the forum.

Fundamentally, the Cabinet Office and the minister of state for special missions at the Cabinet Office have the role of coordinating and bringing together the policies of various ministries and agencies.

Kono, as a member of the Diet, is free to insist on promoting renewable energy, but as a minister of state for special missions, he must not forget the significance of his responsibility and the magnitude of his influence.

The stable supply of energy is an important issue related to the foundations of a nation. To achieve both a stable supply of energy and promote decarbonization, it is necessary to simultaneously proceed with restarting nuclear power plants and promoting the use of renewable energy.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 16, 2024)