Monday. 20/1/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Venetia Rainey

Descending on Davos

From tomorrow the world’s powerful and prosperous will descend on the Swiss town of Davos for the 50th edition of the World Economic Forum – and what a week awaits them. This is one of the only events that can bring a crowd of billionaires, celebrities, activists and world leaders together in one place. Just look at the guest list: George Soros, Bollywood’s Deepika Padukone, Greta Thunberg and Donald Trump are just a handful of those slated to attend.

This year the WEF is going back to its roots and exploring one of its founding principles: stakeholder capitalism. Don’t stop reading. This dull and technical-sounding term actually describes something quite radical and powerful: the idea that businesses should work for the interests of not only their shareholders but also their customers, employees and the communities that they’re part of, whether local or global.

It’s a fantastic idea – the only problem is that everyone has very different interests. It’s hard to reconcile those of Chinese technology giant Huawei, whose founder Ren Zhengfei will also be at Davos, with those of the environmental activists who are concerned about CO2 emissions. And how to bridge the gap between what the leaders of the International Monetary Fund (also attending the WEF) think is best for an economy with those critical of its policies in Africa, South America and elsewhere? It’s a tall order and there are no simple answers but the annual Davos forum – famous for bringing opposites together in the back rooms of the city’s hotels and restaurants – might have a better chance of tackling these thorny questions than you think.

For some inspiration on this and other issues that will be occupying those at Davos, pick up issue four of our special Winter Weekly newspaper or tune into Monocle 24 for live coverage over the course of the week.

Business / France

Macron goes off-piste

The annual gathering of elites in Davos (see above) has offered French president Emmanuel Macron an opportunity to capitalise on the presence of so many industrial and political leaders on the continent. Ahead of the big event, he’s lured 200 CEOs from France and abroad to Paris for today’s Choose France event, a bid to bolster investment in the country. It has paid off before: business leaders pledged some €3.5bn of investments in France after the 2018 event. “France has overtaken Germany as a foreign-investment destination in Europe,” says Florence Biedermann, Agence France-Presse’s UK and Ireland general manager. Macron will, however, be steering clear of Davos this year, keen to avoid the Forum’s rarefied associations. Choose France, says Biedermann, is therefore, “the way that he’s present on the international scene. Still advocating for investment without aligning himself with elites.”

Geopolitics / Canada and China

Frosty reception

Though the US and China signed a deal last week defusing trade tensions, one key element remains unresolved: the trial to determine Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou’s extradition from Canada to the US begins today – and it could last for months or even years. Wanzhou (pictured) was arrested in Vancouver in 2018 on charges (filed by the US) of fraud and violating US sanctions on Iran. Canada-China relations have deteriorated since: Beijing has blocked the trade of the North American country’s key agricultural goods and detained two of its citizens for more than a year in what many regard as a tit-for-tat action. Canadian political analyst Hershell Ezrin says that the start of the trial “will perhaps exacerbate the tensions” but won’t fundamentally alter the diplomatic reality. More important is that Canada ensures that its lines of communication with China are kept open. Here, says Ezrin, the appointment of Dominic Barton as Canada’s new ambassador to China is a significant development. “Barton has a very good working relationship with the Chinese authorities,” he says. “So as far as the channel of communication goes, I think that’s a positive sign.”

Media / Asia

Forcing the issue

The Vogue family is expanding. A new Singapore edition of the magazine, produced in partnership with Indochine Media, is set to launch in the fourth quarter of 2020. It will be the publication’s 27th international title and follows a Hong Kong edition, which launched last year. Vogue Hong Kong caused a domino effect, with the likes of French lifestyle publication Madame Figaro following suit – but Singapore could be more challenging. Vogue actually tried to launch an edition for the city-state in the 1990s but it flopped. So what’s different now? For one thing, print and advertising sales are down in the US and Europe, prompting Vogue publisher Condé Nast to look elsewhere. “Magazines with a global presence have the ability to add more advertising dollars and survive,” says Cory Quach professor of fashion marketing and management at Savannah College of Art and Design. Additionally, Singapore has since become a luxury competitor to Hong Kong as its fashion and design scene have gained momentum. Time will tell whether Vogue can crack the code this time around.

Transport / USA

Lofty fare

Last week Toyota became the latest car-maker to invest in a business that’s out to launch flying taxis, putting $394m (€355m) into US-based company Joby, which has also benefited from the largesse of Uber. Daimler, meanwhile, has bet on the Volocopter project. The use of the term “taxi” might hint at a new era of democratic urban air travel but that’s nonsense. These vehicles (pictured) are cheaply made helicopters that will allow urban elites to ignore the mass-transit needs of the many. They will also allow city officials to turn a blind eye to the gridlock on their streets and add a new layer of noise to our skies. Car companies are panicking: policy-makers in Europe are demanding that they clean up their acts and many young people no longer want to own a car. Some are hoping to reinvent themselves as technology brands but cities need simple solutions – not flying taxis.

M24 / The Menu

The rise of Portuguese gastronomy

How Bar Douro gave Portuguese food the recognition it deserves in London. Plus: drinks writer Fiona Beckett on getting the most out of non-alcoholic drinking.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: February issue, 2020

The fresh-feeling February issue of Monocle is home to our Gentle Manifesto for the year ahead: simple fixes and friendly nudges to make this year better than the last. Inside you’ll find an urban experiment in Cartagena, tales from the folk who quit their jobs and followed a different course, and a new museum in Miami. Plus: Amanda Lear’s ‘last meal’, the road to architectural enlightenment in Rouen and some sporty suggestions for 2020. Available now at The Monocle Shop

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