Thursday. 26/8/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Courtesy of Licanìas Festival

Opinion / Chiara Rimella

On the town

Plenty of people have fantasised about, or indeed pursued, a rural life in recent times. But once their remote working is done for the day and laptops are closed, can city transplants find everything they need in their new patch?

Small villages in Italy have been losing residents for years and the strategy to revive them must go beyond cheap property prices and good wi-fi. The tiny town of Neoneli, smack-bang in the middle of Sardinia, doesn’t have a hotel or restaurant but it is doing all it can to make culture one of its calling cards. Starting today, Neoneli will play host to Licanias festival, which is bringing together the likes of award-winning Sicilian photographer Letizia Battaglia and writer and poet Aldo Nove to discuss history, current affairs and potential futures.

The festival’s existence is thanks to the village’s pragmatic mayor, Salvatore Cau, who has put in plenty of effort to foster its cultural scene. He has turned the town’s former police station into a library and every year invites a big-name author for a residency so that they can write a novella inspired by the surroundings (which Cau then proceeds to publish in Italian, English and Sardinian dialect, and then distributes for free). Once the writers have gone, their works remain, building a literary reputation for this village that tells a more compelling story of its merits than swift broadband.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Germany

Left turn?

If Germany’s pollsters are right, next month’s federal elections could deliver one of the greatest upsets in the nation’s recent political history. Research by the polling firm Forsa suggests that the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), led by Olaf Scholz (pictured), have for the first time since 2006 moved ahead of the conservative CDU/CSU – the alliance between the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union in Bavaria. The news makes particularly grim reading for chancellor Angela Merkel’s would-be successor Armin Laschet and his CDU party, which is polling at its lowest level since Forsa began collecting data 37 years ago. So are the SPD ready to govern? “The Social Democrats have been part of Germany’s grand alliance for a while. But a few years ago it would have been unthinkable that they would be frontrunners in this election,” veteran Berlin correspondent Quentin Peel told The Monocle Minute. “Olaf Scholz has a real chance to become chancellor. However, forming a left-wing government [of like-minded parties] will be far from easy.”

Business / Switzerland

Best foot forward

On Running thinks that it has what it takes to beat its competitors to the finish line. In April the founders of the premium sports footwear firm told Swiss daily NZZ that they “don’t compete to come in second” – a tall claim in a crowded market of long-standing players such as Nike and Adidas. This week, On Running began putting that theory to the test, quietly filing for an IPO with the New York Stock Exchange.

Backed by Roger Federer (pictured), the company tripled its annual earnings in the past three years to CHF425m (€395m) in 2020 and has sold more than seven million pairs worldwide. On Running reportedly expects to be valued at about $5bn (€4.3bn). There are plenty of spoils to go around: Allied Market Research predicts that the size of the global footwear market will reach $530bn (€452bn) by 2027 amid an increasing consumer focus on health and wellbeing. Whether On Running can top the world’s biggest players or not, they are certainly primed to shake up the race.

Image: Alamy

Diplomacy / Israel & USA

Much to discuss

Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett (pictured) will sit down with Joe Biden today at the White House, marking the first meeting between the two leaders. In fact, it will be Bennett’s first state visit of any kind since he became premier in June. The officially stated topics of discussion include Iran, stability in the Middle East and “efforts to advance peace, security and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians”. But Bennett will also be aiming to reset relations with Biden. Though the US is Israel’s most powerful ally, the fact that former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a vocal champion of Donald Trump alienated many Democrats. While Bennett will want to build up the relationship, serious points of difference exist between the two leaders – over Iran as well as the re-establishment of a consulate dedicated to US-Palestinian issues in Jerusalem – which could throw a wrench into that plan.

Image: Alamy

Education / China

Red letter

Xi Jinping Thought, the political ideology of the Chinese leader, is to be added to the country’s national curriculum and taught to students from primary school through to university. The doctrine’s 14 principles, which have already been enshrined in China’s constitution, include exhortations both vague (“take a people-centric approach for the public interest”) and direct (“follow the One-China policy and 1992 Consensus for Taiwan”). Global Times, the country’s state-owned tabloid newspaper says, quoting the ministry of education, that the new curriculum will help “teenagers establish Marxist beliefs and strengthen confidence in the path, theory, system and culture of socialism”. The move bookends a busy summer for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which last month celebrated its 100th anniversary. In recent weeks it has announced a new five-year plan for the economy as well as laws to rein in press freedom. It also continues the elevation of Xi Jinping into the pantheon of China’s most hallowed leaders: only CCP founder Mao Zedong has hitherto had his ideology referred to as his “Thought”.

M24 / Monocle on Design

Paul Smith, Alvar Aalto Week, Ishkar

British designer Paul Smith shares his design for a new Mini vehicle and we visit Alvar Aalto Week in the Finnish town of Kouvola. Plus: we meet Ishkar, a company helping to preserve traditional craftsmanship in conflict-affected countries.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle Preview: September issue

Monocle’s September issue steps inside some of the world’s biggest newsrooms, going behind the set with trusted anchors and hearing how agencies stay agile. Elsewhere there’s Saab’s latest fighter jet and the Hong Kong centre where shoppers can work up a sweat at rooftop basketball courts. Grab the issue now at The Monocle Shop.

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