Thursday 27 October 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 27/10/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Reuters

Opinion / Christopher Cermak

Making a stand

An almighty stir was caused last week. Kevin McCarthy, who will become speaker of the US House of Representatives if the Republicans win control of the chamber in November’s midterms, declared that Ukraine would no longer receive a blank cheque from Congress if he were in charge. With Ukraine facing its toughest test of the war as winter approaches, the remark was taken as an ominous sign that the US could be turning off the aid tap at the worst possible time.

In reality, this is unlikely. The US is in the middle of a deeply divisive election cycle and, though we don’t agree on much, one of the areas of remarkably stable support is Ukraine. A recent Washington Post poll found that the majority of Americans, and a plurality of Republicans, continue to back aid for Ukraine even if it means higher energy prices and inflation. In other words, there’s an understanding that Ukraine is fighting for something worth sacrificing. McCarthy (pictured) was forced to clarify his remarks as a result.

More broadly, there are surprising levels of agreement on foreign policy here in the US. Some of this comes from fresh recognition on the left rather than the right – Joe Biden has proven far more hawkish on China, for example, than his Democratic predecessors. In short, there is cross-party understanding that this is a moment where democratic nations need to stand up for their values against authoritarian leaders. Where the bipartisan consensus falls apart, of course, is on whether there has been a similar slide away from democracy here in the US. But I’ll leave that pesky issue for another column.

Christopher Cermak is Monocle’s Washington correspondent.

Image: Getty Images

Geopolitics / India & China

Blurred line

The uneasy truce between India and China since the two nations spent a month at war in 1962 is exemplified by the fact that the Asian powers have never settled on the terms of their shared border. Indeed, soldiers have even resorted to leaving cigarette packets on the ground where they think it should be. Two years ago this ambiguity resulted in the deaths of a number of Indian and Chinese troops, following skirmishes in the Ladakh region, which Narendra Modi visited on Monday. Modi’s objective, according to Sajjan Gohel, a visiting teacher at the London School of Economics and Political Science, was to “show his support for Indian soldiers during Diwali and to reflect his government’s strategic priorities, with China becoming a greater challenge than Pakistan”. China has “certainly been encroaching on ‘the line of actual control’ in recent years,” Gohel tells The Monocle Minute. “But the fluidity of the contested regions means that the situation remains precarious and future clashes cannot be ruled out.”

For more on this story, tune in to today’s episode of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Alamy

Politics / Canada

Still going strong

John Tory was re-elected as Toronto’s mayor for a third term this week after securing 62 per cent of the vote. Tory’s most pressing task is to address the city’s housing crisis, which should be easier with his new “strong mayor” powers, granted by Ontario’s premier, allowing him to override some council-imposed planning laws.

Tory (pictured) rose to power on the heels of the chaotic and embarrassing tenure of Toronto’s last mayor, Rob Ford, and has since proven himself to be steady and undramatic (to the annoyance of US late-night talk-show hosts who enjoyed Ford’s antics). During his eight years as mayor he has pushed some transit and housing projects along but has become fairly comfortable, running a rather laid-back re-election campaign during which he participated in few debates and speeches. While Tory is a safe bet for now, he will need some energy and political nous to solve the crippling housing shortage in Canada’s biggest city.

Image: Max Kneefel

Design / The Netherlands

Future perspectives

Dutch Design Week, the biggest event of its kind in northern Europe, kicked off in Eindhoven this week. More than 2,600 designers are taking part across 110 locations in the city, with a focus on the designs of the future. Start your tour at RetroFuture, which has transformed the interiors of the extraterrestrial-looking Evoluon building.

Curated by Next Nature, the exhibition takes you through 10 tunnels full of facts and dreams that have shaped our future and looks at how technology can be harnessed to create the world of tomorrow, from Emma van der Leest’s microbial vending machine to an immersive virtual-reality time machine. The exhibition No Space for Waste examines the problem-solving capabilities of design, while Studio Martens & Visser showcases imaginative installations that explore the playfulness of physics. The festival ends on Sunday.

Image: Hands

Retail / Japan

Change of Hands

Japanese department store chain Tokyu Hands announced yesterday that it was rebranding as Hands, with a new logo (pictured) – a stylised version of the kanji for “hand”. Since its founding in Shibuya, Tokyo, in 1976, Tokyu Hands has been Japan’s ultimate go-to store, stocking everything from banana holders and shoe dryers to DIY equipment.

If you couldn’t find the right bulb for your imported vintage lamp, it would have it. The chain has a network of 63 branches, including 15 overseas outlets. But the pandemic hit the business badly – the nation’s closed borders couldn’t have helped either – and owners Tokyu Fudosan Holdings sold it to home-improvement group Cainz Corp in March. The sale reflects the challenges facing Tokyo’s retail sector, where demand has dropped as a result of inflation and the weak yen. But Hands is special. We hope that the new owners keep its management style intact, so that it can remain a safe pair of hands whenever we need help.

Image: Jérémie Souteyrat

Monocle 24 / Monocle On Design

Carpentry, eyewear and furniture

We visit an exhibition celebrating Japanese woodworking and an archive that explores our relationship to eyewear. Plus: Kvadrat’s newest release at the world’s biggest office-furniture fair, Orgatec.

Monocle Films / Husavik

Ísbíltúr: Iceland’s ice-cream road trips

We hit the road with journalist Egill Bjarnason, finding the best spots to grab a cone on a journey into the Icelandic custom of ísbíltúr. It’s one of many Nordic lifestyle concepts that can teach us a thing or two about quality of life. Discover more stories and ideas from the region with The Monocle Book of the Nordics, available now from The Monocle Shop.


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