Friday 1 July 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 1/7/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / James Chambers

Tightening grip

Hong Kong is entering a new era of stability, prosperity and opportunity. At least that’s the official government line, splashed on billboards around the city (pictured) ahead of today’s 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China. President Xi Jinping is in town to spell out his vision for this new era but residents already have a good idea of what’s in store for the next 25 years.

School textbooks are busy rewriting history, several publishers have been banned from attending the annual book fair later this month and press freedom continues to slide. Some local and international journalists have been banned from covering today’s event at the conference centre in Wan Chai, where Xi will also swear in John Lee as the city’s new chief executive. Lee is an ex-police officer and national security is likely to dominate his five years in office, even though most opponents of the government are in jail, in exile or on trial.

Posters on public transport warn of the rising threat of domestic terrorism, while security checks are creeping into daily life in some unexpected places. When the Hong Kong Palace Museum opens to the public tomorrow, showing works on loan from the Forbidden City in Beijing, visitors will be required to pass through metal detectors and have their bags scanned. This is common in mainland China but unheard of in Hong Kong outside of courthouses and the airport.

Despite all of this, one thing that hasn’t changed is the people. The vast majority of those who remain here are proud of their Chinese heritage but protective of their way of life. Though Hong Kong might not be what it once was, it’s still a city worth fighting for.

James Chambers is Monocle’s Hong Kong bureau chief.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Madrid

Points of interest

Nato’s summit in Madrid this week was the alliance’s most crucial in decades – and possibly its most significant ever. The team from Monocle 24’s The Foreign Desk has been there all week. Here’s what we’ve learned.

Thirty becomes 32. Sweden and Finland joining Nato really is a big deal: not just the fact of it but that it was possible to announce at this summit. Everybody we spoke to described it as a transformative moment, especially for the security of the Baltic sea – now, in effect, Lake Nato – and the Arctic.

United we stand. The unity that Nato has sought to project since Russia attacked Ukraine is genuine. Almost three years after France’s president Emmanuel Macron (pictured, on left, with EC president Ursula von der Leyen) declared Nato “braindead” there’s a renewed sense of purpose – even if there’s a profound anxiety about the reason.

Look east. The rules-based global order that emerged after the Second World War is being challenged not only by Russia but by China. “We cannot take anything for granted,” Lithuania’s foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told us. “It has to be defended.”

Listen to Andrew Mueller’s “What we learned” monologue on today’s edition of ‘The Briefing’ and to a special edition of ‘The Foreign Desk’ from Madrid on Saturday.

Image: Getty Images

Energy / UK

Heat is on

As the cost of living continues to rise in the UK – the current year-on-year inflation rate is 9.1 per cent, the highest in 40 years – the government has appointed Jonathan Mills as the country’s first director-general of winter resilience. Mills, who previously worked in director roles in the Department of Energy & Climate Change, will be in charge of ensuring that the population doesn’t bear the brunt of looming energy-supply issues this winter. That means managing the rise in costs, making sure that people can heat their homes in the colder months and avoiding power cuts.

Places such as Athens have appointed chief heat officers (read our profile in the July/August issue of Monocle) but having a winter resilience officer could be a smart move in colder climates. And if the West is to continue supporting Ukraine and tightening the screws on Russia, Mills and Downing Street will need to prove that they have what it takes to keep the lights on.

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / Israel

All change

Yet again, Israeli politics has shown that instability is its only constant. Today, Yair Lapid (pictured), the leader of a centrist party, has become interim prime minister after parliament disbanded this week. Israeli parties have repeatedly struggled to secure enough seats to govern with a majority and the most recent eight-party coalition – led by Lapid and the current prime minister, Naftali Bennett – succumbed to the same fate when some of its members declared that they would no longer support it.

Lapid, a former TV news anchor, will remain in the role until elections are held on 1 November – the fifth time in less than four years that Israelis have been to the polls. Bennett has said that he will not stand in the elections but they create yet another opportunity for a comeback for the country’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. “As much as we’d like to blame the politicians, the people need to take stock in this fifth election, decide what they want and return a decisive result,” Yossi Mekelberg of Chatham House tells The Monocle Minute. “Doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome was defined in history as madness.”

Hear more about Yair Lapid and Israel’s elections on today’s edition of ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Getty Images

Society / Canada

National pride

After two years of subdued festivities, Canadians are more determined than ever to celebrate today’s Canada Day. In 2020 the pandemic limited the normally exuberant long weekend and last June the gruesome discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves on the sites of former residential schools forced Canadians to rethink how they viewed the nation’s birthday. This year the challenges continue: protests are leading police to lock down central Ottawa and some parades have been cancelled over costs and staff shortages, while many people will be wearing orange as a symbol of respect to the children lost.

However, despite the fractious mood, communities from coast to coast are still planning to let loose. Events scheduled across the country range from pancake breakfasts to lumberjack shows and lakeside barbecues with fireworks. Never underestimate the willingness of Canadians to don a red-and-white umbrella hat and raise an ice-cold beer in the summer.

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle 24 / The Foreign Desk

The Supreme Court’s capriciousness

Roe vs Wade was just the beginning. Now the current US Supreme Court appears to be overturning a whole host of previous rulings. Andrew Mueller explains how two different Supreme Courts can read the same constitutional text and get two different answers.

Monocle Films / Paris

How to enjoy life

Join us for a whirlwind tour around the cobbled streets, cocktail bars and jazz lounges of Paris to explore how to enjoy the small things in life and find out why hedonism (in moderation) matters.


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