The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Tuesday 27 June 2017

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Behind the scenes

China loves to spotlight its high-tech industries at ‘Summer Davos’ but what’s that hiding in the wings?

Six months ago, president Xi Jinping (pictured) became the first Chinese leader to make a speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos in the bitter cold of winter. There he presented his country as the global leader flying the flag for cross-border co-operation and open, international trade. Today, the Annual Meeting of the New Champions – otherwise known as “Summer Davos” – opens in the Chinese port city of Dalian and it’s another opportunity for China to project a particular version of itself, only this time as a country with peerless high-tech industries – “new champions” refers to exciting young ventures in science and technology. Nobody would deny China’s importance in these sectors but stage-managed events like the Summer Davos cannot cover up the country’s mounting debt pile and conspicuously skewed markets. In that sense, leadership is still some way off.

Defence

Image: Felix Odell

Power up

The Baltic region is reacting to Russia’s presence, with Sweden in particular boosting its military might.

Since Russia parked nuclear-capable Iskander missiles in its Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad last year, militaries around the region have been bolstering their forces. Finland announced in February that it would increase its troop count by 20 per cent and Sweden is tooling up: Stockholm announced this week that it would replace the country’s entire anti-aircraft system. The current equipment, though regularly updated, was developed in the 1950s by US firm Raytheon and will be supplanted by new variants from 2020, with Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and French-Italian maker Eurosam all bidding for the contract. Though Sweden is historically neutral, in September it reintroduced a small garrison on the strategic Baltic island of Gotland and, from 1 July, it will reinstate military conscription for the first time in seven years.

Culture

Image: Getty Images

Wipe out

As the Turkish president threatens to knock down one of the country’s few secular symbols (again), is Ataturk’s legacy on the rocks?

Beyond the minarets and the mosques, there are a few secular fixtures on Istanbul’s skyline that are also sacred for many citizens. The Ataturk Kultur Merkezi (AKM) is one of them: built in the first few decades of the Republic as a concert hall to welcome the world – and named after the founder of modern secular Turkey – it has fallen into woeful disrepair and is today little more than a concrete husk in Taksim Square. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said this month that his government would knock it down to build a grand opera house instead. This oft-repeated threat has become indicative of a feeling that Ataturk’s legacy is being erased and the country forcefully remade in the president’s image. Yet in a week that has seen Gay Pride parade-goers tear gassed off Istanbul’s streets, the fate of the AKM seems even more loaded.

Immigration

Image: Getty Images

Hot potato

LA is working to reverse its ban on selling street food as a way of defying Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric.

Los Angeles is the only major US city to ban street-food vendors. But earlier this year city councillors voted unanimously to decriminalise selling food on the street and is in the process of ironing out the kinks for issuing vendor permits by mid-summer. There’s long been a campaign to allow street vending but city councillors have openly stated that their decision to push this through in 2017 came as a response to president Donald Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric. By legalising the sale of food streetside, they argue, it protects the largely immigrant vendors who work in LA from being put at risk of deportation. Trump’s agenda was bolstered yesterday by the Supreme Court’s decision to partially lift a block on his proposed travel ban but California at least is peddling a different patter.

From Monocle 24

Summer lookahead 2017

Culture with Robert Bound

Robert Bound is joined in the studio by co-founder of publishing house Unbound John Mitchinson, art critic and curator Francesca Gavin and film critic Karen Krizanovich to discuss the art, books and film to look out for this summer.

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