Wednesday 10 January 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 10/1/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

In the ring: William Lai (centre) at a campaign rally in Taipei

Image: Shutterstock

Politics / James Chambers

Home advantage

Voting in Taiwan routinely takes place under a China-shaped cloud and this Saturday’s presidential and legislative elections will be no different. Yet the build-up to them has been less eventful than usual, particularly from an international standpoint. In 2016 voters dumped the Kuomintang (KMT) a few months after then-president, Ma Ying-jeou, shook hands with Xi Jinping on a stage in Singapore. The 2020 vote, which returned the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to power in a landslide victory, followed hot on the heels of Hong Kong’s anti-Beijing protests.

External events this time have been quieter partly as a result of a thaw in US-China relations. Barring any drastic turn of events over the coming days, Taiwanese voters have an opportunity to elect their next government dispassionately and focus on domestic policies and perennial economic problems, such as stagnant wages.

The most likely outcome is a historic third consecutive win for the ruling DPP. Presidential candidate William Lai is expected to take over from the term-limited Tsai Ing-wen. The international headlines are guaranteed to talk this up as a thumb in the eye to China but, once the dust has settled, the real story is likely to be the size of the DPP’s victory. Lai’s lead in the opinion polls has narrowed considerably during the campaign. With only a few days until voters head to the ballot box, he will be feeling the pressure of following Tsai’s 2020 performance – a tough ask after eight years of DPP rule and a mounting list of scandals and disappointments.

The DPP doesn’t inspire the same excitement today as it did in 2016 but it continues to benefit from the sorry state of the KMT. The emergence of the Taiwan People’s Party as a potential alternative could steal votes from both parties and help to counter the most immediate threat to Taiwanese democracy: the lack of a viable opposition.

James Chambers is Monocle’s Asia editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Politics / France

Fresh start

Gabriel Attal was appointed as France’s prime minister yesterday, becoming the country’s youngest and first openly gay head of government. Learn more about his spectacular rise in our profile of Attal on Monocle Radio’s ‘The Globalist’.

Auto focus: a worker on a Honda production line

Image: Reuters

Business / Canada

Plugging in

The Great White North is establishing itself as a prime location for electric-vehicle (EV) manufacturing. This week representatives of Honda will be in Canada for a meeting with senior government officials. The Japanese automaker is reportedly considering investing more than CA$18.4bn (€12.5bn) in an EV plant that could also produce batteries; it is expected to reach a final decision by the end of 2024. The news follows a busy year for EV production in North America.

After the US announced billions of dollars in subsidies for the sector, Canada unveiled its own package of investments and incentives in partnership with companies such as Volkswagen, Northvolt and Stellantis-LG Energy Solution. Canada has pledged to end sales of new gasoline- or diesel-powered passenger vehicles by 2035. Meanwhile, Honda, which has so far been slow to make its mark in the expanding EV market, says that it will exclusively produce battery-powered vehicles after 2040. As details of the potential deal slowly emerge, Canada is clear about its intention of becoming a leader in the sector – and of competing with its southern neighbour.

Politics / Portugal

Race to the top

Portugal might be eight weeks away from an election but the race to succeed former prime minister António Costa has already begun. Over the past few days, political parties on both sides of the divide have sought to make their voices heard. The country’s ruling Socialist Party (PS) formalised Pedro Nuno Santos as its new leader on Sunday, making pledges to increase the minimum wage and boost the economy. And the Social Democrats (PSD), the main opposition party, announced a pre-electoral alliance with the right-wing Christian democrats, CDS-PP, in the hope of bolstering their winning chances. The far-right Chega party, however, is hoping to gain enough traction to become a kingmaker in potential coalitions. The election of another PS government would not be a surprise – but with a new year bringing in price hikes and tax increases, there is still time for change before Portugal heads to the polls.

Mobility / South Korea

Stand on the run

It will be standing room only on some of Seoul’s metro carriages this morning as the city tries to ease rush-hour congestion. Every train running on the South Korean capital’s Subway Line 4 during the morning and evening commute will include one car without seating. The idea is being trialled after figures showed that peak-time trains on Line 4 ran at up to 193.4 per cent capacity last year.

On your feet: a seatless carriage on the Seoul Metro

Image: Seoul Metro

If the pilot proves effective, the initiative could move to other lines. Though it remains to be seen whether standing-only carriages will be popular with the public, local media outlets have responded positively to the attempt to improve the commute on one of the world’s busiest metro systems. The trial also offers a potential solution to another scourge of busy trains: bags on empty seats.

For more on Seoul’s metro initiative, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ on Monocle Radio at 07.00 London time.

Beyond The Headlines


Men of the cloth

Menswear trade show Pitti Immagine Uomo, which is taking place in Florence until Friday, marks the beginning of the fashion year. Among the high-end brands showcasing the latest in menswear, here are three designers to keep an eye out for this week.

Todd Snyder
Todd Snyder’s championing of classic US menswear has earned him a reputation as one of the most influential designers of his generation. In 2023 he was appointed as Woolrich Black Label’s creative director. He will be celebrated in this edition’s Designer Showcase, with his namesake brand presenting its new collection at the event.

Achilles Ion Gabriel
The Finnish-born creative director of Camper will debut his eponymous brand’s first autumn/winter 2024 collection in Florence before presenting it at Paris Men’s Fashion Week later this month. It will consist of gender-neutral ready-to-wear shoes and accessories.

WP Lavori in Corso
The Italian workwear company is set to present the new strategy for some of the brands under its umbrella, including Filson and Barbour, the latter of which has collaborated with Japanese designer Tokihito Yoshida.

For more from Pitti Immagine Uomo, tune in to Monocle Radio.

Image: Ryan Walker

Monocle Radio / The Urbanist

The Don river, Toronto

Tomos Lewis looks at the revitalisation of the Don river, which flows from Toronto’s ravine system into Lake Ontario.


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