Developing soft power in China matters domestically as much as internationally. The Confucius Foundation of China, a government-funded institute, has revealed plans to build 10,000 Confucius Schools nationwide to spread the teachings of the sage from Shandong. Promoting respect for elders and the needs of society over the individual serves the leadership’s narrative for China’s slowing economy, which is shifting emphasis towards the quality rather than quantity of growth. The domestic expansion of these schools, established last year and currently numbering more than 100, is set to outstrip the well-known Confucius Institutes. The latter are based in overseas universities across the world and periodically attract allegations of undue influence from academics.
Canadians flock to the polls today to vote in 338 members of parliament, up from 308 in 2011. This increase, implemented to improve representation across the country, may have a considerable upside but the historic House of Commons just wasn’t built for it. A team of architects was brought onboard to squeeze in an additional 30 seats, the challenge being to respect the traditional design of the chamber built in 1866. It took two years to finally install theatre-like fold-down chairs in the back rows, some of which were crafted with 150-year-old methods to maintain the antiquated ambience of the building. Not an ideal solution but it will have to do until the multimillion-dollar renovations of the Centre Block begin in 2018.
Tectonic plates once pulled the continents apart, leaving a vast ocean between the US and Europe. Is a similar cultural shift now happening? While much of the US still seems convinced that print is finished, any visitor to the Frankfurt Book Fair will have been left with a very different impression. As hundreds of thousands of visitors filed through the halls of the Messe they were faced with the best of book-publishing from Beirut to Berlin and Bogotá. But what was equally impressive was the strong presence of those who are in the business of getting paper into people’s hands, from newspapers such as the NZZ to magazines including Der Spiegel, plus makers of notebooks, calendars and dictionaries. There was no gloom to be seen and very little space taken up by digital players. Frankfurt and San Francisco feel a long way from each other these days.
Relatively unscathed by the political upheaval of its neighbours in North Africa, Morocco is charting a course for the future with an economy built on technology. Until recently, tourism, phosphates, textiles and agriculture were the backbone of the Moroccan economy. But in a speech last year the Moroccan king announced that he wanted the country to progress in order to become an emerging economy and emulate the growth of countries such as Turkey and Malaysia. Given Morocco’s economic problems – it’s still ranked as a lower-income country – the challenges are huge but the ambition is unique in the region; read about it in the November issue of Monocle, on newsstands this week.