Friday 25 November 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Friday. 25/11/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Alamy

Opinion / James Chambers

View from the middle

Taiwan’s midterm elections take place tomorrow and, just as in the US, the results will have a strong bearing on the next general election. President Tsai Ing-wen of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will be stepping down in 2024 and her eventual replacement could emerge from one of this weekend’s city-hall contests. As usual, the race for the mayoralty of the capital, Taipei, is grabbing the most attention but it’s the contest in neighbouring New Taipei City, Taiwan’s most populous city, that’s more pertinent to next year’s presidential primaries.

The city’s incumbent mayor, Hou Yu-Ih (pictured, centre), is a huge draw for the Kuomintang (KMT), Taiwan’s main opposition party. Since he is expected to be re-elected without breaking a sweat, the true test of his nationwide appeal will be the effect of his endorsement on the outcome of other races. The popular politician has been campaigning in quasi-presidential fashion for fellow KMT hopefuls across the country. Such is Hou’s star power that even the party’s blue-blooded mayoral candidate for Taipei has posed for a picture with him.

Wayne Chiang, a descendant of two of Taiwan’s previous leaders, is fighting a tight, three-way race in the capital. Victories there and in New Taipei City would suggest that the KMT is not dead yet. A strong performance in local elections – at which the opposition traditionally does well – could also paper over the many cracks at national level. Taiwan’s grand old party was walloped at the last general election, partly because it still advocates reunification with mainland China. But every democracy needs a strong opposition and Taiwan needs the KMT to rediscover its appeal at every level of government.

James Chambers is Monocle’s Asia editor and Hong Kong bureau chief.

Transport / USA

Speed trials

The Hyperloop was supposed to be the next revolution in transportation, zipping trainloads of travellers at plane-like speeds through a tube, cutting journey times to a fraction. A decade since Elon Musk first suggested using the technology to link Los Angeles and San Francisco, the ultra-high-speed connection remains a long way off from reality. Yet the industry continues to trundle on. Research company Hyperloop TT, which operates a test loop in Toulouse, France, has merged with a major US investor and plans to go public – the first in the field to do so. It will be a major test of how much appetite remains for the technology. “Countries such as Italy are now funding Hyperloop systems,” Hyperloop TT’s CEO, Andrés de León, tells The Monocle Minute. “And China is said to have completed testing and to be moving forward with construction. With those developments and regulatory advances in the US and Europe, we believe that Hyperloop is here to stay.”

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Malaysia

United front

Anwar Ibrahim (pictured) was sworn in as Malaysia’s 10th prime minister yesterday, capping off a tumultuous week and two-year political crisis in the country. Last weekend’s general election resulted in Malaysia’s first-ever hung parliament, followed by days of uncertainty as rival parties tussled for power. Anwar is the leader of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, which won the most parliamentary seats but not enough to form a government. Malaysia’s King Abdullah met with party leaders on Thursday to resolve the impasse, urging them to form a unity government.

Anwar has weathered political coups, multiple failed bids for the premiership and trumped-up prison sentences in his decades-long career. His appointment should bring some stability to Malaysia, which has endured two unelected prime ministers in the past two years. But he has plenty to contend with, including a fragile and untested unity government, a sceptical electorate and a powerful Islamist opposition.

Image: Getty Images

Defence / Global

Maximum risk

Two factors will continue to shape the world of warfare in 2023: the far-reaching effects of the conflict in Ukraine and increasing global instability. As a result of the former, the arms industry is expected to see high demand for weapons such as multiple-rocket-launch systems and anti-aircraft defences. There have also been calls to integrate multiple sources of intelligence into a more coherent whole. The bonanza for the arms industry will be accompanied by a collective sigh from Nato as the military alliance moves on from its failures in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya and enjoys progress against Russia, a more traditional enemy. That said, conventional wars will be affected by the experience of 2022. Though the supply of game-changing weapons to Ukraine has been carefully handled to avoid nuclear escalation by Vladimir Putin, the volatile situation means that all must tread carefully.

To find out more, and where the world’s next flashpoint might be, pick up a copy of ‘The Forecast’, out now.

Image: Getty Images

Agriculture / Canada

Moving the needle

Some prickly news is emerging from North America’s most northerly nation ahead of Christmas. Canada’s spruce-tree harvest, much of which is exported to the US as Christmas trees, has suffered from decreased yields this year. The shortage spans the whole country from British Columbia in the west to New Brunswick in the east (home of the coveted balsam fir), hitting the approximately €75m industry ahead of its most important season.

The poor harvest is partly down to extreme summer heat caused by climate change but another significant factor is the loss of tree farmers to retirement over the past decade. Christmas-tree associations are pushing for the Canadian government to lower the cost of land for new farmers but the six-to-10-year growth time means that it will be a long time before they would see returns. As yields decrease and buyers seek cheaper and more sustainable options, those pining for the perfect Christmas tree might have to look elsewhere.

Monocle 24 / The Entrepreneurs

Universal Works

Designer David Keyte co-founded menswear brand Universal Works in 2008. He returns to the show to discuss seasonality and staying fresh, what it means to be a UK brand after Brexit, the trouble with the “S” word – that is, “sustainability” – and dressing the world. Plus: we report from Helsinki on why thousands of the world’s leading entrepreneurs and investors brave the cold Finnish weather to attend Slush every November.

Monocle Films / Portugal

Portugal: The Monocle Handbook

Part of a new travel series, Portugal: The Monocle Handbook is a practical guide that will introduce you to the best the country has to offer as we present our favourite spots across the country. Order your copy today.


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