The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 27 July 2018

Politics

Image: Getty Images

Holding on

Shinzo Abe may count believers in his own party but on Japan’s streets it’s a different story.

This September, Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic party (LDP) will vote on whether its embattled leader Shinzo Abe will remain in office. It has been an eventful year for him. As recently as spring he was fighting for his job as a number of corruption scandals – among them falsified foreign-ministry documents – rocked his leadership. This week came some good news: according to a poll by Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun, Abe’s standing is good among his party members. In fact, he remains the strongest candidate to continue as leader of the LDP. Less welcome news will be that although peers view him as the best candidate, the same can’t be said of the public, who seem to favour the fresh-faced 37-year-old Shinjiro Koizumi, chief deputy secretary-general and son of former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi. Last month, Shinjiro called for further investigation into Abe’s scandals. Although the young minister has yet to bid for leadership, he is a reminder that for Japan there is life after Abe.

Diplomacy

Image: Getty Images

Branching out

With India set to establish 18 new embassies in Africa, Delhi should concentrate on diplomacy over economics.

India has announced ambitious plans to boost its diplomatic presence in Africa by establishing 18 new embassies across the continent. The proposals were unveiled by India’s prime minister Narendra Modi during an address to Uganda’s parliament this week. India has 29 full diplomatic missions in Africa but Modi’s announcement suggests a renewed concentration on India’s role in international affairs and on his country’s economic presence overseas. After the US, China has the second-largest diplomatic presence in Africa, with 41 embassies. But Modi’s plans would see India surpass Beijing. Modi, however, should not be dazzled by the appetite to compete with China in Africa. The increase in embassies shows that India is learning from China’s lessons in the continent. While plundering natural resources yields economic benefits in the short term, diplomacy and helping to mediate in regional conflicts creates long-term goodwill.

Retail

Looking sharp

When it comes to turning heads on the high street, Gentle Monster is better than most – and now the brand has hit Europe.

For the past decade, South Korean start-up Gentle Monster has been making swift inroads into the eyewear market. It has wooed shoppers in Seoul, Tokyo and Los Angeles with its sculptural and affordable sunglasses displayed in elaborate, often bonkers settings. “I put more energy into spaces than sunglasses,” co-founder Hankook Kim told Monocle recently. Now the brand is taking on Europe. Gentle Monster’s first flagship on the continent (and 16th globally) opens tonight off London’s Regent Street. The two-storey shop will have a martial-arts theme complete with bamboo forests, gongs and a digital waterfall. It may sound like a novelty shop, but this is a brand with a fresh take on retail; it’s investing in memorable spaces that give customers a reason to get off their laptops and head to the high street. We hope it gives other eyewear companies a renewed focus.

Technology

Image: Getty Images

Face value

While the UK public frown at the prospect of facial-recognition technology, investors can scarcely suppress their smiles.

Facial-recognition technology is an unnerving concept for those concerned with privacy in the digital world (which is more or less everyone). Investors though, don’t seem so worried. Technology that is capable of recognising a face and then matching it to an identity profile stored in the cloud might sound Orwellian to some, but to others it presents a colossal opportunity in everything from security to retail. This is why money is currently being ploughed into companies such as SenseTime, a Chinese outfit which recently raised €1.4bn in funding. In the UK - where people are especially touchy about their civil rights - there has been an outcry against the Metropolitan Police Force’s planned trial of the technology. Meanwhile, New York is already using facial recognition at bridges and tunnels, while Perth is set to rollout a set of smart CCTV cameras. There will continue to be a quiet struggle between those who want to see facial recognition adopted and monetised, and those who view it as a further transgression on privacy in the digital age.

From Monocle 24

Image: Alamy

Crime and the city

The Urbanist

We focus on our home city, London, because recent statistics back up what many Londoners have been feeling for months: that we are living through a spike in crime. Andrew Tuck is joined by Anna Mansfield, Rory Geoghegan, Livvy Haydock and Richard Sennett to discuss if there is an urban solution.

From Monocle Films

Vive le béret

Monocle Films pays a visit to the last béret-maker in France and meets the Irishman trying to revive this quintessentially French piece of headwear.

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