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Russia–Japan territorial disputes, divisive as ever

Author: Tsuneo Akaha, MIIS The Russia–Japan territorial dispute over the southern Kurils/Northern Territories is heating up again. Although the Cold War has long ended, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Kunashiri Island on 1 November 2010 prompted Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan to call it ‘an unforgivable outrage.’ Japan claims that the islands of Habomai, Shikotan, Kunashiri (Kunashir in Russian), and Etorofu (Iturup) are not part of the territories it surrendered in the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty. The peace accord, Japan claims, did not specify to whom the renounced territories would belong, and the Soviet Union (now Russia) could not and cannot base their sovereignty claims to the islands on a treaty the USSR refused to sign. Moscow and Tokyo agreed in their joint declaration of 1956, which restored their diplomatic relations, that the Soviet Union would return the disputed islands to Japan upon conclusion of a bilateral peace treaty. Both countries ratified the joint declaration. In 1991, the Japanese were encouraged when General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev acknowledged that there was a territorial dispute between the two countries. They even became hopeful when the first Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, agreed in 1993 that the 1956 joint declaration was still valid. Since then, Japan has continued to insist that all of the disputed islands are inherent territory of Japan and Russia’s control of the islands is illegal. Moscow’s position is essentially that Japan has no claim to the territories because it surrendered the entire Kuril chain in the San Francisco peace treaty. The victorious Soviet Union, therefore, acquired the islands as well as the southern half of Sakhalin Island (the northern half was already Soviet territory before the Second World War) as justly deserved spoils of war — as agreed in the Yalta Conference among the allied leaders. In recent years, the Russian leadership has intensified their appeal to patriotism and used the islands issue to this end. On 7 July 2010, the Russian Duma passed legislation establishing 2 September as the day to commemorate the end of the Great Patriotic War; that date in 1945 being the day when Japan signed the instrument of surrender. On 28 September, President Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao issued a joint statement commemorating the 65 th anniversary of the war and pledged further strengthening of the Sino–Russian strategic alliance. This was followed by the Russian president’s visit to Kunashiri Island, as noted above, and similar visits to the disputed territories by Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, other key ministers and high-ranking officials. Ironically, the Russian leaders’ visits to the disputed islands demonstrate Moscow’s commitment to develop the long-neglected economy of the Russian Far East, including the southern Kurils; an effort in which Russia regards Japan as an important partner. Japan also sees mutual benefits in closer economic ties with Russia, particularly in the energy field. Although the eventual outcome of the territorial dispute is anybody’s guess, there is no question that the level of trust between Moscow and Tokyo must improve substantially if a mutually acceptable solution is to be reached. Several essential elements of trust-building efforts can be outlined. First, it is essential to improve and expand the relationship between the two governments so as to withstand the ups and downs of diplomatic tensions. The two countries need a more comprehensive engagement, particularly in the economic and social spheres, at both national and subnational levels, especially involving communities in the Russian Far East and northern and western regions of Japan. Second, Moscow and Tokyo should advance cooperation over transnational and global challenges; for example, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, climate change, public health (like HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases), alternative energy development, space exploration and new materials development. Third, both sides should encourage creative and innovative ideas that go beyond long-held perspectives which have proven ineffective. For one, Russia might consider returning the Habomais and Shikotan to Japan upon conclusion of a peace treaty, where the two sides commit to negotiating the status of the remaining islands. While the negotiations continued, Japan should offer assistance and encourage private investment in the development of the entire Northern Territories. Both Russians and Japanese might live side-by-side, with disputes between them to be settled in an arbitration board or a court of their choice. Finally, for any compromise to withstand inevitable criticisms at home, the political leaders in Moscow and Tokyo must build their credibility not on their ability to fan nationalism among their citizens but on their ability to ensure sustainable economic development and social stability. Professor Tsuneo Akaha is Professor of International Policy Studies and Director of the Center for East Asian Studies at the Monetary Institute of International Studies, California. China and its territorial disputes: One approach does not fit all China and its territorial disputes: One approach does not fit all Japan must acknowledge ‘territorial issue’ over islands

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Author: Tsuneo Akaha, MIIS

The Russia–Japan territorial dispute over the southern Kurils/Northern Territories is heating up again. Although the Cold War has long ended, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Kunashiri Island on 1 November 2010 prompted Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan to call it ‘an unforgivable outrage.’

Japan claims that the islands of Habomai, Shikotan, Kunashiri (Kunashir in Russian), and Etorofu (Iturup) are not part of the territories it surrendered in the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty. The peace accord, Japan claims, did not specify to whom the renounced territories would belong, and the Soviet Union (now Russia) could not and cannot base their sovereignty claims to the islands on a treaty the USSR refused to sign.

Moscow and Tokyo agreed in their joint declaration of 1956, which restored their diplomatic relations, that the Soviet Union would return the disputed islands to Japan upon conclusion of a bilateral peace treaty. Both countries ratified the joint declaration. In 1991, the Japanese were encouraged when General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev acknowledged that there was a territorial dispute between the two countries. They even became hopeful when the first Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, agreed in 1993 that the 1956 joint declaration was still valid. Since then, Japan has continued to insist that all of the disputed islands are inherent territory of Japan and Russia’s control of the islands is illegal.

Moscow’s position is essentially that Japan has no claim to the territories because it surrendered the entire Kuril chain in the San Francisco peace treaty. The victorious Soviet Union, therefore, acquired the islands as well as the southern half of Sakhalin Island (the northern half was already Soviet territory before the Second World War) as justly deserved spoils of war — as agreed in the Yalta Conference among the allied leaders.

In recent years, the Russian leadership has intensified their appeal to patriotism and used the islands issue to this end. On 7 July 2010, the Russian Duma passed legislation establishing 2 September as the day to commemorate the end of the Great Patriotic War; that date in 1945 being the day when Japan signed the instrument of surrender. On 28 September, President Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao issued a joint statement commemorating the 65th anniversary of the war and pledged further strengthening of the Sino–Russian strategic alliance. This was followed by the Russian president’s visit to Kunashiri Island, as noted above, and similar visits to the disputed territories by Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, other key ministers and high-ranking officials.

Ironically, the Russian leaders’ visits to the disputed islands demonstrate Moscow’s commitment to develop the long-neglected economy of the Russian Far East, including the southern Kurils; an effort in which Russia regards Japan as an important partner. Japan also sees mutual benefits in closer economic ties with Russia, particularly in the energy field.

Although the eventual outcome of the territorial dispute is anybody’s guess, there is no question that the level of trust between Moscow and Tokyo must improve substantially if a mutually acceptable solution is to be reached. Several essential elements of trust-building efforts can be outlined.

First, it is essential to improve and expand the relationship between the two governments so as to withstand the ups and downs of diplomatic tensions. The two countries need a more comprehensive engagement, particularly in the economic and social spheres, at both national and subnational levels, especially involving communities in the Russian Far East and northern and western regions of Japan.

Second, Moscow and Tokyo should advance cooperation over transnational and global challenges; for example, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, climate change, public health (like HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases), alternative energy development, space exploration and new materials development.

Third, both sides should encourage creative and innovative ideas that go beyond long-held perspectives which have proven ineffective. For one, Russia might consider returning the Habomais and Shikotan to Japan upon conclusion of a peace treaty, where the two sides commit to negotiating the status of the remaining islands. While the negotiations continued, Japan should offer assistance and encourage private investment in the development of the entire Northern Territories. Both Russians and Japanese might live side-by-side, with disputes between them to be settled in an arbitration board or a court of their choice.

Finally, for any compromise to withstand inevitable criticisms at home, the political leaders in Moscow and Tokyo must build their credibility not on their ability to fan nationalism among their citizens but on their ability to ensure sustainable economic development and social stability.

Professor Tsuneo Akaha is Professor of International Policy Studies and Director of the Center for East Asian Studies at the Monetary Institute of International Studies, California.

  1. China and its territorial disputes: One approach does not fit all
  2. China and its territorial disputes: One approach does not fit all
  3. Japan must acknowledge ‘territorial issue’ over islands

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Russia–Japan territorial disputes, divisive as ever

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Lingang New Area in Shanghai Introduces Whitelists for Data Export to Enhance Cross-Border Data Flows

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The Lingang New Area in Shanghai has introduced trial general data lists to simplify data export procedures for companies in automotive, biopharmaceuticals, and mutual funds sectors. This aims to reduce regulatory burdens and facilitate cross-border data flows, following efforts to improve business environment for foreign companies.


The Lingang New Area in Shanghai has introduced trial general data lists aimed at simplifying data export procedures for companies in the automotive, biopharmaceuticals, and mutual fund sectors. These lists outline specific scenarios where businesses can export data out of China with reduced regulatory burdens, bypassing more stringent compliance requirements.

The Lingang New Area of the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ) has released the first batch of trial lists of general data for three sectors, facilitating cross-border data flows for companies operating in the area. This announcement closely follows the release of the Tianjin FTZ’s Negative List, which similarly seeks to facilitate cross-border data flows for companies operating in the FTZ by specifying the types of data that are restricted from being exported without certain approval procedures.

The first batch of general data lists has been provided for the fields of intelligent connected vehicles, biopharmaceuticals, and mutual funds, three sectors with a significant presence in the Lingang New Area. The general data lists are scenario-based, meaning they outline various situations in which data export is required and freely permitted. These include scenarios, such as multinational production and manufacturing of intelligent connected vehicles, medical clinical trials and R&D, and information sharing for fund market research.

The general data lists will be implemented for a trial period of one year from their date of implementation, May 16, 2024.

In January 2024, the Lingang New Area announced a new system for data management and export in the area, which included the release of two data catalogs, one for “important” data and one for “general” data. This new system will help facilitate cross-border data transfer (CBDT) for key sectors in the area by delineating the types of data that are restricted or subject to additional compliance measures to be exported (through the important data lists) and data that can be more easily exported (through the general data lists).

In March, the area released the Measures for the Classification and Graded Management of Data Cross-border Flow in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone Lingang Special Area (Trial) (the “Lingang CBDT Management Measures”), which outlined the rules and requirements for this new system, including how companies can use the general data lists.

These developments follow many months of efforts by the central Chinese government as well as local authorities to improve the business environment for foreign companies in particular, a core part of which has been resolving headaches surrounding data export.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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The New Company Law brings substantial changes with implications for new and existing foreign invested enterprises and stakeholders. Foreign investors must assess if adjustments to existing structures

Despite recent economic challenges, many organizations’ China operations provide unparalleled access to one of the world’s largest and most competitive global supply chains. Over the past 30 years, a significant number of foreign invested enterprises (FIEs) have been established in China. As of the end of 2022, the number of FIEs operating in China had exceeded 1.12 million.

Compared to their domestic counterparts, FIEs demonstrate greater caution regarding legal revisions and are diligent in making swift adjustments. This stems not only from the closer scrutiny FIEs face from regulatory authorities but also from their commitment to compliance and maintaining a competitive edge.

Clearly, there has been a shift in China’s corporate regulations—from merely encouraging an increase in the number of companies to focusing on attracting mature enterprises and higher-quality investments. While the transition from a broad approach to a more refined one may cause short-term challenges, it ultimately benefits the company’s long-term development. By returning to the original intent of setting registered capital, it not only protects the interests of creditors but also shields shareholders from the operational risks of the company.

In China’s foreign investment landscape, while most FIEs exercise commercial prudence in determining registered capital—factoring in capital expenditures, operational costs, and setting aside surplus funds—some opt for higher registered capital levels to avoid future capital increase procedures. This typically involves lengthy document signing and registration changes, lasting 1-2 months.

Joint ventures (JVs) often impose stricter payment deadlines for registered capital in their articles of association to ensure both parties’ simultaneous contributions align with operational needs. Conversely, wholly foreign-owned enterprises (WFOEs) tend to favor flexibility in payment deadlines, often allowing full payment before the company’s operational period expires.

Given these circumstances, despite the generally stronger capital adequacy among foreign companies compared to domestic entities, many FIEs could be affected by the new capital contribution rules.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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Foreign Tourist Groups on Cruise Ships Fully Permitted Visa-Free Entry in China

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China will allow visa-free entry for foreign tourist groups arriving by cruise ship at 13 ports along the coast, starting May 15, 2024. Visitors must stay with the same ship and in permitted areas for up to 15 days. This policy aims to boost tourism and facilitate high-quality development in the cruise industry.


China’s immigration agency announced that it will grant a visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups to enter China by cruise at all cruise ports along the coast of China, starting May 15, 2024. The tourist group must remain with the same cruise ship until its next port of call and stay within permitted areas for no more than 15 days.

Effective May 15, 2024, the National Immigration Administration (NIA) has officially implemented a visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups entering China via cruise ships. This progressive move aims to enhance personnel exchanges and foster cooperation between China and other nations, furthering the country’s commitment to high-level openness.

Under this policy, foreign tourist groups, comprising two or more individuals, who travel by cruise ship and are organized by Chinese domestic travel agencies, can now enjoy visa-free entry as a cohesive group at cruise ports in 13 cities along the Chinese coast.

The tourist group must remain with the same cruise ship until its next port of call and stay within China for no more than 15 days. The eligible areas for this policy are coastal provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities) and Beijing.

Furthermore, to support cruise tourism development, seven additional cruise ports—Dalian, Lianyungang, Wenzhou, Zhoushan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Beihai—have been included as applicable ports for visa-free transit.

The recent implementation of the visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups entering China via cruise ships is poised to have several significant effects. The policy will provide crucial support for the cruise economy and the overall cruise industry. By facilitating smoother travel for foreign tourist groups, it acts as a catalyst for high-quality development in this sector.

Additionally, under this policy, international cruise companies can strategically plan their global routes by designating Chinese port cities, such as Shanghai, Xiamen, and Shenzhen, as docking destinations. This move is expected to attract more cruise ships to Chinese ports, ultimately bringing in a larger number of international visitors to the Chinese market.

This article is republished from China Briefing. Read the rest of the original article.

China Briefing is written and produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The practice assists foreign investors into China and has done since 1992 through offices in Beijing, Tianjin, Dalian, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Suzhou, Guangzhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. Please contact the firm for assistance in China at china@dezshira.com.

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