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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Friday 19 October 2018

Politics

Image: Shutterstock

Independence day?

As pro-independence campaigners in Taiwan prepare to protest, relations with China are deteriorating.

Taiwan’s fraught relationship with China could escalate considerably tomorrow, with nationalists in Taipei planning to stage a huge rally to demand separation from Beijing. The organisers hope that as many as 100,000 Taiwanese will attend the demonstration, making it the largest since the self-governed island embraced democracy more than two decades ago. However, Isabel Hilton, editor of bilingual news website China Dialogue, cautions that any serious attempt to hold a vote on full-blown autonomy will provoke an equally serious response from across the Taiwan Strait. She tells Monocle: “The push for independence has coincided with the rise of president Xi Jinping. He’s a nationalist and China now feels confident enough to assert its ambitions. The biggest ambition for any leader of China is to reclaim Taiwan.” Indeed, officials in Beijing have warned that the country’s military will respond with force if Taiwan attempts to secede from the mainland.

Government

Image: Alamy

Home discomforts

Justin Trudeau needs to get his house in order but worries about what it might cost – and we’re not just talking dollars.

Since taking office in 2015, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has yet to occupy 24 Sussex Drive, his official residence (and childhood home). Beset by wonky electrical and plumbing systems, and an asbestos-plagued interior, the 19th-century Ottawa home is in critical condition due to chronic underfunding, says a new report from the National Capital Commission, a government-owned corporation for planning and development. And Trudeau, recognising that citizens would surely bemoan the use of taxpayer dollars, has proved reluctant to spend the CA$83m (€55m) needed to knock 24 Sussex, and Canada’s five other official residences, into shape. But with diplomatic relations around the globe in flux, and Canada looking to diversify its trading partners, the prime minister needs an appropriate residence to entertain foreign visitors — and he shouldn’t have to apologise for it.

Business

Image: Getty Images

Shock horror

The revelation that a Japanese producer of earthquake-resisting shock-absorbers has been faking its data has left the government on shaky ground.

It was alarming news for disaster-prone Japan: this week KYB, a major manufacturer of shock-absorbers that boost buildings’ resistance to earthquakes, admitted that it had been falsifying data for more than a decade. It’s a disturbing announcement considering that KYB and its subsidiary’s products have been used in about 1,000 towers and buildings, including Tokyo Skytree (Japan’s tallest structure), nuclear power plants, government offices and a 2020 Olympic sporting venue. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism appealed for calm, saying there was little risk of absorber-equipped buildings collapsing in a major quake. Meanwhile officials promised an immediate industry-wide review. But the scandal – the latest in a number of recent corporate-sector cover-ups in Japan – has rattled the public’s faith in corporations and fuelled anger over lax government oversight.

Foreign relations

Image: Getty Images

Bad influence

Saudi Arabia’s response to Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance is a tactic that observers in New York have seen somewhere before...

Russia’s blatant disregard for the truth seems to be catching on, according to a group of experts assembled at New York’s New School this week. The evening was billed as a discussion of what Russians really think, featuring pro-democracy campaigner Vladimir Kara-Murza and The New School’s Nina Khrushcheva in conversation with New Yorker editor David Remnick. However, the conversation quickly turned to the alleged murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. According to the panel, the Saudis’ response to Khashoggi’s disappearance is proof that Russia’s tactical subterfuge is influencing other so-called rogue nations. “Things are about Russia even when they’re not,” said Khrushcheva. Put another way: Russia’s tactic of boldly denying high-profile crimes seems to have influenced Saudi Arabia. Whether the strategy will work for the kingdom depends on how long the backlash continues – and whether Trump’s administration pushes back on the Saudis’ denials.

From Monocle 24

Image: Alamy

Toronto’s mayoral election

The Urbanist

As Toronto gears up to elect a new mayor, we bring you a special edition unpacking the key issues. Plus: interviews with the candidates: incumbent John Tory and former chief city-planner Jennifer Keesmaat.

From Monocle Films

Monocle preview: November issue, 2018

Our November issue has a special focus on the Netherlands (so special, in fact, that we have published issues with a limited-edition Dutch cover). We've also got designs on improving your home, an interview with Malaysia's PM and an in-depth discussion about branding. Where to start?

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