Tuesday 5 March 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 5/3/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Looking East: Malaysia’s prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, during the Asean special summit

Image: Steve Christo

DIPLOMACY / Andrew Mueller

Good neighbour policies

Australia is possibly the easiest country on Earth for an outsider to point to on a globe: it’s a vast island continent, distinctively shaped, far more swiftly identifiable than any individual tile in the unruly mosaics of Europe or West Africa. Non-Australians might therefore be surprised to discover how much energy is spent – and angst generated – by an eternal domestic argument over where in the world the country is. To be clear, the dispute is not geographic: there is a general consensus as to its physical location. The squabble is more of a spiritual one, as to whether Australia is essentially European or Asian. This week the case for the latter will be implicitly made as Melbourne hosts a special three-day summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). Though Australia is not an Asean member, it has been a partner of the organisation for 50 years and there is little mistaking the subtext of prime minister Anthony Albanese’s decision to prioritise the relationship.

Albanese leads Australia’s Labor Party, which since the 1980s – and particularly since Paul Keating’s premiership between 1991 and 1996 – has been the keener of the country’s main parties on engagement with Asia. (The conservative Liberal Party has generally preferred to believe that Australia is some far-flung UK suburb.) Labor’s focus on Asia peaked in the late 2000s under Kevin Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking Sinophile. Albanese’s choice of foreign minister, Malaysian-born Penny Wong, was abundantly justified on merit but there is little doubt that her background was regarded as a bonus.

Inviting the neighbours round in this fashion is a commendable symbolic gesture but the summit will hopefully have genuine strategic resonance too. Australia and Asean’s member states are united by a pretty obvious concern. Though Albanese has claimed that the gathering would not be “about China”, this is one of those rare occasions when we should earnestly hope that a politician was lying.

Andrew Mueller is a contributing editor at Monocle and presenter of ‘The Foreign Desk’ on Monocle Radio. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

On the road again: Haley and Trump on the campaign trail

Image: Alamy

Politics / USA

Two-horse race

It’s Super Tuesday in the US, when the largest number of states hold elections for candidates hoping to become their party’s presidential nominee. Fifteen states and one territory will be making their decisions today. While it’s typically a day of feverish prognostication about the likely victors, this year it’s something of a damp squib. Donald Trump and Joe Biden seem to have their respective nominations wrapped up and are merely waiting for a few stubborn candidates – such as Republican Nikki Haley and Democrat Dean Phillips – to agree that the game is up.

Haley’s odds are slightly less long. Her chances would be significantly boosted in the event of a trial conviction of Trump in the coming months, which would give many Republicans cause to reconsider backing him. Either way, this year’s Super Tuesday feels far more like a crowning ceremony than a nail-biting race to the finish.

Smoke signals: a demonstration against the government’s universities shake-up in Athens

Image: Getty Images

Education / Greece

Live and learn

This week, Greek lawmakers will hold a two-day parliamentary debate on reforms that could allow foreign universities to open branches in the country for the first time. The move to shake up higher education in Greece follows prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s successful overhaul of the nation’s marriage system and is widely viewed as part of his bid to align the country with European standards.

If the bill passes on Friday, it could attract new investment and result in more opportunities for foreign students to study in Athens. The plans have been met by mass protests, mostly led by opposition parties and student unions, which argue that the move will create a two-tiered education system. However, it could also prove to be a boon for Greek nationals, who, instead of having to study abroad, will be able to access some of the most prestigious global institutions at home.

ART / Japan

Playing fair

Art Fair Tokyo kicks off with a preview on Thursday, before opening to the public on Friday. Japan’s largest art fair is also Asia’s oldest; it will take place at the Tokyo International Forum, a glass-walled convention centre designed by the late Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly. On show will be a broad range of works from more than 150 galleries and dealers from across Japan and beyond, including contemporary art, crafts, antiques and woodblock prints. Meanwhile, a series of special thematic exhibitions called The Project Yugen will give space to up-and-coming artists.

Recent years have been challenging for the country’s contemporary art market but there have also been positive signs, including the launch last year of a new international gallery fair, Tokyo Gendai, which will return to Yokohama in July. This culture-loving city evidently still has plenty of room for more events showcasing what the art world has to offer. Art Fair Tokyo runs until Sunday.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche

Q&A / Sarah Andelman

All the world on a page

Sarah Andelman is the founder of Parisian concept shop Colette and Just an Idea Books. Mise en Page, her new exhibition at Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche in Paris, is a celebration of bookshops and everything related to reading, with hundreds of items on show. Here, she tells Monocle about her latest venture and collaborating with artist Jean Jullien.

What can we expect to find at ‘Mise en Page’?
It’s huge. On the first floor, you’ll find books from the publishing company that I started in 2021, Just an Idea. We also showcase other bookshops, as well as jewellery and beauty brands. On the second floor, you can see Jean Jullien’s work. There’s a collaboration between NouNou and Phamily First too, which is an important part of the exhibition.

What was your process when you were putting ‘Mise en Page’ together?
I tried to think of what would make sense as a story. Very quickly, the theme became books because I’m a publisher. We started to work on Mise en Page in September, after the summer holidays, and we opened in February. So it was quite quick. There are lots of exclusive collaborations with fashion brands, such as Thom Browne and APC, and stationery brands such as Smythson and Mont Blanc. It’s great to be able to do this kind of temporary project; I can work on the curating and make sure that there’s strong storytelling.

Could you tell us about your collaboration with Jean Jullien?
I worked with Jean Jullien back in the day, with Colette. He has done amazing projects in Belgium, South Korea and Japan, as well as some cool smaller projects in Paris. His Paper People became a huge installation.

For our full interview with Sarah Andelman, tune in to our latest episode of ‘The Stack’ on Monocle Radio.

Monocle Radio / The Menu

Ailime, Dorsia and chef Albert Ponzo

This week, we meet Chicca Vancini in Turin at her restaurant, Ailime, to find out what she means when she says that her kitchen has an Italian ambience but a Japanese attitude. Also in the programme: we meet Marc Lotenberg of luxury restaurant-booking app Dorsia and Monocle’s Toronto correspondent, Tomos Lewis, is in Picton, Ontario, to meet chef Albert Ponzo of The Royal Hotel to learn about his farm-to-table approach to cooking.


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