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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Monday 23 July 2018

Geopolitics

Image: Getty Images

Shake on it

China continues to woo Africa to smooth the path of its Belt and Road initiative.

Chinese president Xi Jinping is in the midst of his first foreign trip since winning his second term in March, with a tour of sub-Saharan Africa to shore up diplomatic and economic ties there. Having visited Senegal and Rwanda over the weekend, Wednesday will see him attend the annual Brics summit in Johannesburg to discuss the future of clean energy – among other things – and then later in the week, head to Mauritius. Xi is laying the diplomatic groundwork for China’s Belt and Road initiative, the grand economic and infrastructure plan, which will supposedly usher in a new era of globalisation. And as China is Africa’s biggest trading partner, the continent remains a key component of this plan. As the tariff war with the US starts to bite and China’s economy shows signs of a slowdown, Xi has his sights trained on the long game.

Diplomacy

Image: Getty Images

Lost in translation

British prime minister Theresa May’s bungled approach to building bridges with her Brussels counterparts endangers a good deal – and her legacy.  

The importance of translation should long have been apparent to any politician, not least since John F Kennedy, in his famous speech in 1963, proudly declared to the embattled people of West Berlin that he was a jelly doughnut. Nonetheless, it seems that Theresa May has failed to take this to heart: her Brexit white paper, which has already wreaked havoc on her party and cabinet, is now provoking mirth abroad. A German translation, characterised as “unreadable” and “archaic” by native speakers, has also raised eyebrows at the European Commission, which sees it – and other translations – as an attempt to bypass Brussels’ Brexit negotiators and head straight for the member states. Against this backdrop lies an announcement that May intends to release weekly warnings, bracing the UK’s businesses and public for the increasingly likely possibility of an extremely hard Brexit. If the devil is in the detail, things aren’t looking good. Too many more trivial embarrassments and May risks cementing her legacy – as a Berliner.

Soft power

Image: Getty Images

Sleigh the competition

Christmas has come early in Denmark and so has the inevitable festive row: where does Santa really come from?

It’s Christmas in July for Copenhagen as the World Santa Claus Congress kicks off today in the Danish capital. The four-day event will see hundreds of Santas from around the world convene. The annual get-together, which has been running since 1957, is a cross between a professional conference and a cheerful gathering (yes, there’s a parade). But while the event is mostly fun and games, its location is the source of some controversy as the Nordic nations have long battled over which country has a legitimate claim to Santa Claus. In the 1960s the Danes claimed Santa’s real home was in Nuuk, Greenland; meanwhile Norway invested in its own Julehus (Christmas home) in Drøbak, near Oslo; and the Swedes established Mora as Santa Town in the 1980s. (Of course, Monocle has profiled the real Santa, who’s based in Lapland’s Rovaniemi.) The fight over St Nick may seem trivial but it’s an undeniable soft power asset.

Culture

Image: ANA CUBA

Movie magic

Greece’s up-and-coming film festival is bringing smaller hits to the big screen.

For Greeks, watching films under the stars is a highlight of the summer months. Outdoor cinemas pop up across the country so buffs can enjoy movies in the open air on balmy evenings. This is just one of the draws of the Aegean Film Festival, which is running until 29 July on the islands of Patmos and Paros. The festival offers a line-up of debuting international films, from German comedy Forget About Nick to Swedish satire Amateurs. Although it may not have the scale or glitz of bigger film festivals around the world, the gathering is carving out a niche for itself. This has everything to do with the setting: whitewashed buildings, rustic tavernas, remote beaches and a laidback Grecian atmosphere. We’ll take it over the melee of Cannes, Sundance or Tribeca any day.

From Monocle 24

The Stack

‘Regain’, ‘The Rev Journal’, ‘WeMove’

This week we cover new French title about the countryside ‘Regain’, a magazine for all Formula 1 lovers ‘The Rev Journal’ and ‘WeMove’, about health and adventure.

From Monocle Films

On the paper trail

Who needs paper in a world dominated by technology? Kenji Hall finds out as he visits Kakimori, a small stationery shop nestled in Tokyo’s Kuramae neighbourhood, which has been bringing customers joy over the course of three generations.

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