The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Thursday 29 March 2018

Diplomacy

Image: Getty Images

Keep your friends close

North Korean premier Kim Jong-un embraces China while setting the stage for a few less courteous summits.

It was confirmed yesterday that – as virtually everyone had suspected – it was indeed North Korea’s Kim Jong-un who was in Beijing this week for a secretive meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping. The upshot was an announcement that Kim will hold historic summits with both the US and South Korea. In the face of Donald Trump’s unpredictable Twitter-based diplomacy, this was a display of vintage statecraft (the green-and-yellow train that Kim travelled on was even the same one that his father used on diplomatic missions). The meeting enabled Xi to present himself to his nation as a key international arbiter, while Kim reassured his people that relations with the country’s only real ally are rosy. When the summits eventually take place, most likely in late April or early May, you can be sure that the narrative will be more hotly contested.

Urbanism

Image: Getty Images

The congestion question

Should New York push ahead with charging drivers to enter the city? And if it does, will the plan stall?

It seems such a normal concept to Londoners and the residents of numerous other global metropolises who have long had to pay a congestion charge if they want to drive into their city centre. But in the petrol-guzzling US it’s still something of a revolutionary concept – and one that’s being hotly debated in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo has stepped up to say he’s in favour of introducing a charge, largely to help fund the city’s ailing subway. The big question is whether something will sneak into the budget, which is due for approval this coming Sunday. Previous experience suggests not: New York tried and failed to do something similar in 2008. If it does pull it off it could – and should – set an example for other cities around the country, including car-loving LA.

Fashion

Image: Alamy

Small wonders

Homegrown labels help Tokyo stand up to rival scenes in the world’s bigger fashion industry capitals.

Despite Japan’s €70bn fashion industry, Tokyo’s attempts to stage a fashion week have never rivalled those of Paris, London and New York. Where the Japanese capital does excel, however, is as an incubator for small, well-respected homegrown brands. One place to see this up close is at Fashion World Tokyo, which opens next week at Tokyo Big Sight (pictured). This year’s show – the largest gathering of the industry in Japan – is comprehensive, spanning menswear, womenswear and accessories, jewellery and textiles. Most of the 1,000 exhibitors and 28,000 attendees will be from the Asia region. It might lack the glamour, the parties, the media frenzy and the runway shows of other major capitals but Tokyo’s pragmatic approach is one reason that so many small fashion labels continue to thrive here.

Transport

Image: Getty Images

First cab off the rank

A Singaporean firm has bought the Southeast Asian arm of Uber’s business. Are there more firms lining up to share a ride?

After months of speculation, earlier this week ride-sharing app Uber finally confirmed the sale of its Southeast Asian business to Singapore-based competitor Grab. The deal provides a good opportunity to take a closer look at the state of ride-sharing in the region. “Taxis are still very much common here, and popular,” says transport researcher Terence Fan. “If you take them into account, Grab’s not a monopoly yet.” Then there’s Go-Jek in Indonesia, which has cornered the two-wheeler market as Grab has stuck to cars. “A major chapter has closed in the first big wave: coming in, expanding and creating this market,“ says Fan. “It’s going to take some time for another player to really think it through and maybe attack it in different directions, not straight on as Uber and Grab have done.”

From Monocle 24

Image: Shutterstock

Not cricket

The Foreign Desk Explainer

As a seemingly small on-field kerfuffle grips his home nation, Andrew Mueller asks why Australia is dropping its bundle over a scratched cricket ball.

From Monocle Films

Urban provocations

Monocle’s second Quality of Life Conference kicked off in Vienna earlier this year with a set of urban provocations. Here are our top 10 city fixes.

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