The Monocle Minute

Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 28 December 2017

Politics

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Election fever

Southeast Asia might be gripped by elections in 2018 but none of them are very gripping.

Three Southeast Asian countries have general elections in 2018 – and the winners can already start drafting their acceptance speeches. Cambodia’s incumbent prime minister Hun Sen will run against no-one in July after the nation’s supreme court dissolved the only opposition party. Meanwhile, Malaysia is expected to stand behind Prime Minister Najib Razak’s United Malays National Organisation – the party that’s ruled the country since independence – despite a scandal involving misappropriated state funds. Indeed the only intrigue in Malaysia is whether elections due in August will be called early. Finally, Thailand’s military government plans to hold elections in November. Enthusiasm for the nation’s highly anticipated return to democracy has been overshadowed by talk of the generals entering politics and a new constitution that strengthens the junta’s control of any upcoming civilian government. Fans of proper nail-biter elections in the region may have to wait until Indonesia votes in 2019.

Entertainment

Image: Getty Images

Belting it out

A musical institution is coming to Asia-Pacific but will its contestants be singing the same tune?

There’s plenty to look forward to in 2018 but surely Asia-Pacific’s very own Eurovision song contest is near the top of the list. The annual singing competition, which sees entries from across Europe perform in front of huge television audiences across the continent, is coming to the region, with Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney all vying to host the inaugural singsong. South Korea and Japan may be strong favourites but we’re not expecting much regional harmony: the political voting patterns that influence Eurovision are sure to play heavily in this new contest. China may be used to its smaller neighbours paying tribute but its island-building in the South China Sea is unlikely to endear its pop singers to potential voters in countries such as Vietnam.

Hospitality

Image: Alamy

Muji making moves

One of Japan’s biggest retail companies is launching a hospitality venture in China – but not where you might expect.

China’s commercial capital Shanghai saw a raft of exciting hotel openings this year, led by the latest Aman resort and the Capella. But next year the most eagerly anticipated opening is happening further south. Japanese retail company Muji will open its first hotel in mid-January in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. A total of 79 rooms will incorporate Muji furniture and homeware and sit atop a Muji diner and flagship shop. The fact that a Japanese company has chosen Shenzhen over Shanghai for its hospitality debut speaks volumes about the transformation underway in the former factory heartland, which is reinventing itself as a creative hub and is home to major technology companies such as Tencent and Huawei.

Urbanism

Image: Getty Images

A dog’s life

Dog day afternoons are set to get better and better in the Taiwanese capital.

As the Chinese-speaking world gets ready to usher in the Year of the Dog in February, the question on every pup’s lips will be: where is the best place to be man’s best friend? Taipei is known in the region for its quality of (human) life but the Taiwanese capital is also making great strides as a pet playground. Mayor Ko Wen-je opened the city’s second dedicated dog park in September, with more dog drinking fountains to come. The mayor is also consulting the public about whether to allow dogs on public transport. One in 18 residents of Taipei are estimated to be dog-owners so the incumbent mayor will have high hopes of winning a second term next year when voters head to the polls.

From Monocle 24

Image: Uniform

Hadid to Calatrava: a year in design

Section D

In this special programme, we look back at the defining ‘Section D’ moments of 2017, including an exhibition that pondered the legacy of Zaha Hadid, an interview with renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, Budapest’s thoughtful take on its polarising past and how Farfetch OS is eyeing up the future of fashion.

From Monocle Films

Japanese bars

Pull up a pew to discover classic Japanese bars with soothing lighting, knowledgeable and immaculately turned-out bar staff and loyal clientele.

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