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China Moving Slowly into Hokkaido

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang talks to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a visit to a plant of Toyota Motor Hokkaido Inc. in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, on May 11. | REUTERS

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang talks to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a visit to a plant of Toyota Motor Hokkaido Inc. in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, on May 11. | REUTERS

Chinese money is pouring into Hokkaido at a much greater scale than imagined.

In his recent visit to the island prefecture, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang attended a forum of Japanese prefectural and Chinese provincial governors in Sapporo on May 11, but a Chinese diplomatic source said he was just using the meeting as an excuse for touring the island.

His destinations of choice for the observation tour were Toyota Motor Hokkaido Inc., Toyota Motor Corp.’s wholly owned subsidiary producing transmissions and other automobile components, and a state-of-the-art vegetable plant, both in Tomakomai — apt choices for Li, who in 2015 initiated the “Made in China 2025” economic reform plan to upgrade the Chinese economy and industry.

But greater importance seems to lie in the simple fact that the Chinese premier chose to visit the prefecture. The penetration of Chinese money into Hokkaido has been progressing quietly but steadily. According to statistics released by the Hokkaido government, Chinese capital last year purchased more than 2,400 hectares of forestland and an estimated 4,000 hectares of land for solar power generation — together equivalent to the area encompassed by the Yamanote Line in Tokyo. No doubt, there are additional land purchases by Chinese money not reported to the government.

More ominous is the acquisition of farmland by Chinese capital. For example, an agricultural production corporation, established by a Japanese trading firm with close ties to China money, has bought up at least 1,100 hectares of farmland. Of that land, over 100 hectares in the town of Biratori in southern Hokkaido has not been cultivated and remains unused.

The investor may be waiting for a reclassification of the purchased land to non-agricultural use. People close to the trading firm have reportedly been approaching the local agricultural committee, which has the power to change the classification. But it is unthinkable for a company to leave purchased land unused for a long period of time.

Chinese investments are particularly active along the Pacific coast of Hokkaido … (read more)

via The Japan Times

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