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The Japan Times


NATO to enhance Japan ties, warning that China poses 'systemic challenges'

The Japan Times

Brussels – NATO leaders warned Monday that China's military ambitions pose "systemic challenges" to their alliance, and agreed to enhance ties with Japan and other Asia-Pacific nations to back the rules-based international order. The tough line against Beijing, taken in a communique released after the NATO summit, came as U.S. President Joe Biden rallies allies to counter what he calls autocracies like China and Russia that are challenging an open international order. "China's stated ambitions and assertive behavior present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security," said the communique from the 30-member organization that brings together North American and European countries. The leaders also expressed concerns over what they called China's coercive policies, while pointing out the country's rapid expansion of its nuclear arsenal and criticizing the opaqueness of its military modernization. The communique, meanwhile, named Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea as countries with which NATO plans to strengthen its "political dialogue and practical cooperation" in a bid to promote cooperative security and support the rules-based international order.


Tokyo stocks rebound on Wall Street rise

The Japan Times

Tokyo stocks turned up Monday, getting a boost from a continued rally on Wall Street last week. The 225-issue Nikkei average of the Tokyo Stock Exchange rose 213.07 points, or 0.74%, to close at 29,161.80, The Topix index of all first section issues ended 5.73 points, or 0.29%, higher at 1,959.75, snapping its three-day losing streak. The Tokyo market got off to a strong start, after all three U.S. market gauges including the Dow Jones Industrial Average extended their gains Friday thanks to data showing improvement in consumer confidence in the United States in June. Although selling to lock in gains from the initial market spurt gathered steam in the morning, stocks gradually extended gains in the afternoon in pace with Dow futures in off-hours trading. Trading was generally lackluster with many players taking to the sidelines ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting from Tuesday, brokers said.


Elon Musk's China nemesis William Li survived once, but he has a fight ahead

The Japan Times

William Li is being mobbed. At a gala dinner in Shanghai, the founder of Chinese electric carmaker Nio Inc. can barely move forward in the buffet queue before being stopped for another selfie, handshake or hug. Swapping his usual attire of jeans and a T-shirt for a tailored grey suit and blue dress shirt, the tall 46-year-old happily obliges with a smile. Li manages to spoon a small amount of fried rice and vegetables onto his plate, but he's not here for the food. Over the next three hours, Li poses for hundreds more photos, chatting with customers of the automaker he started just over six years ago and has built into a way of life -- at least for the people who buy his cars -- with clubhouses, a round-the-clock battery recharging service and even clothing, food and exercise equipment, all decked out in Nio's geometric logo. As Li works the room, a video backdrop shows six performers, each wearing a different-colored Nio hoodie, singing a self-composed song dedicated to the company.


Biden will need more than $52 billion to counter China on chips

The Japan Times

U.S. President Joe Biden's blueprint for the U.S. semiconductor industry marks an ambitious effort to set industrial policy for a critical sector of the economy, but the strategy will need more money and global support to take back chip supremacy and pre-empt a rival effort from China. The White House on Tuesday outlined a sweeping plan to secure the conduits for critical products from medicines to chips, responding in part to the growing economic and political sway of its Asian rival. Semiconductors -- the basic yet incredibly sophisticated components in almost every modern device -- took center stage in a 250-page White House report, which highlighted Beijing's "ultimate goal of cyber sovereignty and establishing first-mover advantage." The U.S. Senate expressed bipartisan support by passing a bill offering $52 billion to bolster domestic chip manufacturing the same day. That's aimed at reassuring industry leaders like Intel Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. as they consider expanding investments in production capacity in the country.


Japan must work with TSMC to rebuild chipmaking base, ex-economy minister says

The Japan Times

Japan can't build a cutting-edge chip development and manufacturing base on its own, and must seek to cooperate with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC), according to Akira Amari, a senior lawmaker from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Amari, a former economy minister who heads an LDP working group on semiconductor strategy, added that the government must be prepared to spend trillions of yen to keep up with the U.S. and Europe. Both have plans to pour money into the industry amid a global shortage of semiconductors, including advanced logic chips that are essential for everything from artificial intelligence to autonomous driving. "Unlike the purely domestic, independent way it was done in the past, I think we need to cooperate with overseas counterparts," Amari said in an interview in Tokyo on Monday. "The world's top logic chipmaker is TSMC, so we must think about how to cooperate with them."


AI is taking over job hiring, but racism concerns persist

The Japan Times

LOS ANGELES – Since graduating from a U.S. university four years ago, Kevin Carballo has lost count of the number of times he has applied for a job only to receive a swift, automated rejection email -- sometimes just hours after applying. Like many job seekers around the world, Carballo's applications are increasingly being screened by algorithms built to automatically flag attractive applicants to hiring managers. "There's no way to apply for a job these days without being analyzed by some sort of automated system," said Carballo, 27, who is Latino and the first member of his family to go to university. "It feels like shooting in the dark while being blindfolded -- there's just no way for me to tell my full story when a machine is assessing me," Carballo, who hoped to get work experience at a law firm before applying to law school, said by phone. From artificial intelligence programs that assess an applicant's facial expressions during a video interview, to resume screening platforms predicting job performance, the AI recruitment industry is valued at more than $500 million.


Microsoft says error led to no matching Bing images for Tiananmen 'tank man'

The Japan Times

Microsoft Corp. on Friday blamed "accidental human error" for its Bing search engine not showing results for the query "tank man" in the United States and elsewhere after users raised concerns about possible censorship around the Tiananmen Square crackdown anniversary. Users, including in Germany and Singapore, reported Friday that when they performed the search Bing returned the message, "There are no results for tank man." Hours after Microsoft acknowledged the issue, the same search returned only pictures of tanks elsewhere in the world. "Tank man" is often used to describe an unidentified person famously pictured standing before tanks in China's Tiananmen Square during pro-democracy demonstrations in June 1989. Microsoft said the issue was "due to an accidental human error and we are actively working to resolve this."


Japanese farmers turn to technology to overcome pandemic and aging

The Japan Times

Farmers are turning to digital technologies to grow and sell their products amid the combined impact of depressed sales to restaurants due to the coronavirus pandemic and the graying of Japan's population, which is complicating the drive to raise productivity in the labor-intensive sector. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 last year, an increasing number of farmers and fishers have drawn attention to their plight through Pocket Marche, an online service that brings them together with consumers. "A substantial number of farmers lost their sales to restaurants due to the pandemic and flocked to our app to sell their products," said Pocket Marche Inc. CEO Hiroyuki Takahashi. In February last year, when Japan was reporting slow growth in coronavirus infections, around 2,000 farmers and fishermen were selling their products to 52,000 registered customers via Pocket Marche's app. As the coronavirus situation worsened, the number of producers using the service grew to around 5,100, with customers rising to 300,000. The app, launched in 2016, allows farmers and buyers to exchange messages.


Chip crisis forces carmakers to rethink just-in-time ordering

The Japan Times

A century after automakers showed the world the value of assembly-line manufacturing, a shortage of semiconductors is teaching the industry a painful new lesson in what it takes to build a car. For most of its history, the industry has relied on a distinct approach to buying car parts, procuring components from suppliers right at the moment they're needed. It's referred to as just-in-time manufacturing and is designed to streamline production and eliminate the costs of keeping warehouses stocked with parts waiting to be used. But the shortcomings of that system were made starkly clear this year as the automakers confronted a dearth of the chips they need to build advanced functions into their vehicles, and found themselves near the bottom of chipmakers' customer lists because of their just-in-time approach. That shortage is threatening to cut $110 billion in sales from the industry, and forcing auto manufacturers to overhaul the way they get the electronic components that have become critical to contemporary car design.


China tech giants spend billions to fuel growth after crackdown

The Japan Times

Beijing's crackdown on its tech giants is fueling a noticeable phenomenon: it's opened the spending floodgates. China's largest internet corporations are digging deep into their pockets to open up new avenues of growth as Beijing curtails their most lucrative businesses from fintech to e-commerce. Tencent Holdings Ltd., Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Meituan have all warned investors in recent weeks they're prepared to open their coffers to expand in areas such as cloud computing, autonomous driving and artificial intelligence. The coming deluge promises to transform the internet landscape by funneling capital into fundamental technology and infrastructure -- not coincidentally priority areas for the Communist Party. Of the three, Beijing-based Meituan was the earliest to throw caution to the wind and also the one most accustomed to sacrificing profits.