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.
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.
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.
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.
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