Tuesday. 24/5/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Fiona Wilson

Balancing act

Yesterday was a red-carpet day in Tokyo on Joe Biden’s first visit to Japan as President. An audience with Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace was followed by a meeting with prime minister Fumio Kishida (pictured, on right, with Biden) at the nearby Akasaka Palace. Many takeaways from the joint press conference were familiar: the US-Japanese alliance is the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific; Washington supports Japan’s bid to become a permanent member of a reformed Security Council; and so on.

What grabbed headlines was Biden’s affirmative answer to the question of whether the US would defend Taiwan militarily should China try to take it by force. American policy on Taiwan has been to keep the status quo and stay ambiguous on the matter of how far the US would go if Taiwan were invaded. Yesterday, Biden seemed to suggest that it would move beyond its commitment to supply Taiwan and use force if necessary. His aides were quick to contain the potential fallout: “Our policy hasn’t changed”, said one. But since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the dial has shifted.

This message will be further underlined by the meeting in Tokyo today of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – aka the Quad – when Biden and Kishida will be joined by Narendra Modi and Australia’s newly elected prime minister, Anthony Albanese. As Kishida has been saying repeatedly, the global reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should be a warning to China. Or as Biden put it, “The idea that Taiwan can be taken by force is just not appropriate. It will dislocate the entire region.”

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Germany

Charm offensive

Olaf Scholz undertook a three-nation visit to Africa yesterday, his first official trip to the continent. Following visits to Senegal and Niger earlier in the day, Scholz arrived in Johannesburg yesterday evening for the final leg of his tour. His visit is widely viewed as part of an effort to reduce Germany’s reliance on Russian gas by pursuing energy-diversification projects in Africa. Senegal, in particular, has billions of cubic metres of gas reserves and is tipped to become a major producer in the region. The leaders also discussed the economic consequences of the war in Ukraine – particularly the disruption to global food supplies – as well as efforts to find a common position toward Russia. A number of African countries, including Senegal and South Africa, abstained from voting on a UN resolution against the war, while at the same time insisting that they wish for amity. “Very clearly, we want peace,” said Senegal’s president Macky Sall (pictured, centre, with Scholz). “This is the African position.”

Image: Shutterstock

Diplomacy / Global

Symbols of warfare

Global uncertainties stemming from the war in Ukraine have inevitably been the talk of the World Economic Forum in Davos this week. “It’s an anxious world right now,” Frederick Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council, tells Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “You really feel it here. People are still having parties – that’s what you do in Davos – but the mood and talk are about how we can navigate this period and come out of it.”

This focus has been aided by a major presence from Ukrainian officials, including the Klitschko brothers, the prime minister and senior Ukrainian MPs, in addition to a video address from Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as a “Ukraine House” of events and a special exhibition in the former location of Russia’s delegation. The “Russia war-crimes house” includes a map of alleged atrocities and a series of moving photographs on a large wall that change every second. It is “a very symbolic exhibition”, Ukrainian MP Yulia Klymenko tells Monocle. But Ukraine’s presence transcends these symbols. The country is here to make its voice heard.

Hear more from Klymenko on a special edition of ‘The Monocle Daily’ from Zürich and tune in to Monocle 24 throughout this week for more coverage of the Davos forum.

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Colombia

Rocky start

Ahead of the first round of voting in Colombia’s presidential election this Sunday, more than 20 public figures have signed an open letter demanding safer and more transparent campaigns. Citing an assassination plot against current frontrunner Gustavo Petro, the letter – endorsed by prominent leftist leaders such as Ecuador’s former president, Rafael Correa, and US academic Noam Chomsky – condems violence against candidates and points to how comments “regularly circulate on social-media platforms, threatening their lives and their right to political expression”. While more than five years have passed since a peace deal ended 50 years of conflict between the state and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), the spectre of violence still haunts the country’s electoral process. “For years, the people of Colombia have demanded peace and dignity,” the letter states. “We stand in solidarity with their fight for a democratic, peaceful and free democratic process.” After a rocky start, here’s hoping that this year’s elections set the country on the right path.

Image: Dan Wilton

Transport / UK

Better late than never

The inaugural journey on London’s Elizabeth Line, a new 117km high-speed rail service, left the city’s Abbey Wood station this morning. Transport for London commissioner Andy Byford gave Monocle a sneak peak at the new terminal in Tottenham Court Road for our June issue. When we met, test trains arrived every five minutes. But the Elizabeth Line is four years late and, at €22bn, about €5bn over budget. Things could have been even worse had the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, not hired Byford during the first UK lockdown in 2020.

By deploying the same energetic charm that helped him win over former city hall employees in Toronto and New York, Byford has helped to accelerate the massive project. The new line safeguards London’s appeal and increases its rail capacity by 10 per cent. “You can go from Canary Wharf to Heathrow in 40 minutes,” says Byford. “Try going from Manhattan to LaGuardia in that time.”

Read the full interview with Andy Byford in Monocle’s June issue, out now.

Monocle 24 / The Stack

What next for ‘Vogue Ukraine’?

We speak with Philipp Vlasov, editor in chief of Vogue Ukraine. Plus: a new Washington Post bureau in Kyiv and Wyrd Science, a new magazine about roleplaying and board games.

Monocle Films / Italy & Japan

The talent-seeker: Ryutaro Yoshida

To celebrate last year’s Milano Design City – a downsized version of the annual Salone del Mobile – we take a closer look at one of our favourite exhibitors. Here we trace the collaboration between Italy’s Boffi De Padova and Japan’s Time & Style all the way to the remote region of Shimane, meeting the artisans that craft these special products.

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