The 6th GSDM International Symposium

“Geopolitics, Geoeconomics, Energy, and Innovation in East Asia”
27th Feb, 2019 13:00-17:30
(Fukutake Hall, Hongo campus, the University of Tokyo)


The 6th GSDM International Symposium
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Scene Setting
First keynote speech:Professor Takahara
Professor Akio Takahara, Dean of the Graduate School of Public Policy of the University of Tokyo, opened the Symposium by thanking the distinguished guests, audience, and organizers of the event. He began his speech by discussing the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in parallel to the Japanese Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy (FOIP), questioning whether the two initiatives can coexist in today’s shifting geopolitical landscape. He explained that the BRI was intended to stabilize Chinese foreign policy by harmonizing economic relations and creating win–win partnerships among countries. Professor Takahara explained that BRI and FOIP can be conceptualized as constellations of agreements, in which each star symbolizes a project within a broader framework, but they are not necessarily a coherent plan. In the case of the BRI, the constellation metaphorically takes the shape of a dragon that can be identified as the symbol of Xi’s power and authority in the world. Finally, Professor Takahara explained that he believes the two initiatives can coexist since they pursue different strategic and economic goals.
Second keynote speech:Professor Chen
Professor Chen made an insightful talk on Chinese energy and innovation policies. He described recent trends in innovation and technology in China and argued that the country is quickly becoming a leader in the energy industry. In particular, he stressed the importance of R&D for Chinese economic development and the realization of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this regard, Professor Chen explained in detail the latest Chinese national energy plan toward high security, high efficiency, and low carbon emission. This plan, he argued, will allow China to achieve the 7th SDG of “affordable, reliable and sustainable modern energy.” Finally, after covering additional ongoing energy projects in China, Professor Chen remarked that cooperation among governments, universities, and industry is of vital importance. Concluding his speech, he remarked that China has still much to learn from Japan, especially in the R&D sector.
Third keynote speech:Professor Matsuhashi
Professor Matsuhashi discussed critical issues on energy systems arising from the utilization of renewable energies including solar, wind, and hydro power, as well as response strategies for these issues; in addition, he spoke about the limited and potential use of fossil fuels such as natural gas, taking into consideration the geopolitical roles of China, the U.S., and Japan. One of the major issues faced by the international community is identifying measures for coping with climate change such as conducting CO2 emission control or realizing zero or negative emissions, as indicated in the United Nations SDGs. He observed that renewable energies would become an important factor in solving the issue, but at the same time, it would be significant to promote innovation in energy-related fields and respond to an issue on the stabilization of the entire electric power system including renewable energies. He mentioned the roles of Chinese industries and policies as becoming increasingly important under such circumstances and also introduced academia-driven activities to promote energy innovation through task analysis of energy systems and research of comprehensive technology policies by touching upon the energy research cluster jointly established by the University of Tokyo and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Fourth keynote speech:Professor Qi
Professor Qi stated that renewables are expected to become a primary source of energy in the near future, but not without important challenges. China, in particular, is experiencing a rapid energy transition driven by exponential growth in the use of renewables. Professor Qi explained that in order to frame the Chinese energy transition, it is essential to understand when the country will reach its carbon peak. He argued that, under the Enhanced Transition Scenario of his model, China’s CO2 emissions might have already peaked in 2014, well ahead of the initially envisaged target for 2030. Professor Qi concluded his speech on a positive note, explaining that Chinese CO2 emission goals are likely to be met since the domestic policies of energy transition are stricter than its international pledges.
Presentation by GSDM students
Twenty-five GSDM students have participated in a workshop held in the morning of the symposium to acquire in-depth knowledge about the topic of the event and brainstorm on the future of energy and sustainability in North East Asia. The workshop was organized by GSDM students Cesare Scartozzi and Nikhil Bugalia, and moderated by Professor Kakuwa Masahiro. The results were then presented during the symposium by Ishida Mizuki, a GSDM student and symposium team member. Ms. Ishida explained that, following the STEEP scenario planning method, the students identified a series of cross-cutting trends among North East Asian counties and envisioned six scenarios that could move Japan, China, and Korea toward the achievement of a sustainable energy mix by 2040. Finally, Ms. Ishida showed the trends and scenarios designed by the students and noted that some trends, such as aging population, global warming, nuclear energy, and rise of electric cars, recurred across the groups.
Panel Discussion A: Energy and Innovation
Panelists:Mr. Nakano
Mr. Nakano stressed the importance of the utilization of Intellectual Property (IP) to promote innovation, referring to official data concerning the trends in the number of patent applications filed in the world. He indicated that it is necessary to understand IP as a broad concept in order to utilize it at best, and noted that IP-related issues in a global environment are dramatically changing. This is evident from the fact that China is aiming to take a global leadership position in the IP field, and has been ranked first in the world following a sharp rise in the number of patent application filings in the country.
Mr. Nakano added that the focus of conventional IP strategies was on supply-driven business models, namely considering development of new technologies to create “things” as a major source of competition However, more and more attention is now given to demand-driven markets, where new technologies and products cannot perform well in terms of sales unless they are chosen by consumers because of technological innovations such as big data, AI, IoT, or changes in value structure, as well as the emergence of new business models. He also emphasized the importance of promoting a pro-innovation bias for future IP strategies, and shifting the focus from “Quantity” to “Quality” in patent applications, while explaining the significance of accelerating innovation by taking the Open Innovation approach to realize co-ownership of IP rights, and basic data sharing in multinational networks.
Panelists:Professor Tanaka
Professor Nobuo Tanaka delivered a presentation on the topic of “Innovations in Energy Sector.” He summarized the main four energy revolutions that have happened in the recent past: the shale revolution in North America, the solar PV revolution, China’s green revolution, and electrification. Three out of four revolutions, as he pointed out, are happening in China. Professor Tanaka explained that China and the US are moving in opposite directions: the former has been trying to reduce its dependency on fossil fuels by using renewable and nuclear energy, whereas the latter has been focusing on increasing oil and gas production. Professor Tanaka also argued that Japan and Korea are stuck on fossil fuels at the expenses of energy security. If they continue on this path, the two countries will need to invest in carbon capture and storage. He also mentioned the potential of using hydrogen power as an energy source and storage, particularly for China and Japan. In the last part of his presentation, he described in more detail the potential of nuclear power. Nuclear power, he explained, still has a big opportunity to be developed. Yet the issues of safety and field commissioning need to be answered.
Panelists:Dr. Xiang
Dr. Xiang spoke about the three big challenges of our era: pollution, climate change, and resource constraints. These challenges are interconnected and centered on the issue of energy. Dr. Xiang reminded the audience that the estimated fossil fuel reserves in the world can only be exploited for the next 55 years. For this reason, there is a demand for reliable, clean, affordable energy sources. Dr. Xiang stated that a reduction in the cost of renewable energy technologies has made the prospect of a green energy transition plausible and promising. Several places around the globe have successfully experimented how to solely rely on renewable energies to sustain economic activities for a period of time. For example, China’s Qinghai province, renowned for its solar and wind power, has ran its power system entirely on renewables for 10 consecutive days in 2018. Moving on, Dr. Xiang addressed how the transition from fossil fuel to renewables will reshape geopolitics by diffusing energy production across countries and increasing the resilience of energy markets. Concluding his remarks, he shared some information about current initiatives undertaken by China in the energy sector. China has been promoting the energy transition from both the supply and demand side, focusing on electrification. Dr. Xiang stated that the greatest challenge is posed by the uneven distribution of renewable energies across the country, with production concentrated in the West and consumption in the East. In the following interactions with Professor Shiroyama, Dr. Xiang proposed some strategies that China could implement to stabilize the energy supply and solve the energy storage issue.
Panel Discussion B: Energy and Geopolitics
Panelists:Mr. Hiratake
Mr. Hiratake emphasized how important it would be for future leaders to have an experience of visiting a place where changes are currently occurring, and combine such an experience with the information obtained from reliable people to see the whole picture of a substantial change in order to tackle energy and geopolitical challenges. He referred to his trip to the U.S. where he visited a number of famous laboratories as an Eisenhower Fellow and to Germany to see the first place in the world that had achieved 100% self-sufficiency with renewable energies. He also argued that energy would play a vital political role by increasing its value as a medium of data exchange rather than as a fuel for machines, in the near-future world of Industry 4.0, where everything will be interconnected.
Panelists:Mr. Kim
Minister Kim thanked the audience as well as the organizers of the symposium, and took the floor to address the topic of energy and connectivity from the perspective of Korea. He remarked that, despite the tremendous potential for collaboration in the Northeast Asian region, little has been done until today. Nevertheless, he argued that technological developments and the inter-Korean appeasement have made energy cooperation more feasible in recent times. Minister Kim explained that Korea has been transitioning toward a greener future by halting the development of new coal-fired power plants. Demand of electricity has been growing rapidly, and, also for this reason, the Korean government has issued eight basic plans for “energy demand and supply,” plus a plan for renewable energy in 2017. However, in order to cope with the increasing demand in natural gas, Korea will now need to intensify its collaboration with Russia and the DPRK to build regional pipelines. Regional connectivity, Mr. Kim argued, is mostly seen in a positive light among Koreans and as a means to improve peaceful relations and deal with power generation imbalances across the region. Concluding his speech, Minister Kim urged that it is necessary to start working together to address future challenges in the energy sector before it is too late. Global uncertainties and volatilities in the global energy market require strong regional cooperation.