In The News

U.S.-Taliban Talks, China-Taiwan Tensions, Coconuts And Prayers

👋 Hallo!*

Welcome to Monday, where American and Taliban negotiators sat down for the first time since the U.S. withdrawal, Taiwan's president pushes back on China threats and a couple is accused of selling nuclear submarine secrets. We also look at the migratory path of the international bubble tea craze.

[*Norwegian]

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China, The Silent Conductor In Latin America's Big Rail Projects

China's global investment tentacles have reached South American railways, where Chinese firms are "silent" partners in expanding rail networks, through financing or sale of rolling stock.

SANTIAGO — From public mistrust of its goals to suspicions of its ties to corruption rackets, Chinese investment in Latin America's railway sector has gotten off to a shaky start. Over the past decade, the Asian superpower may have suffered from its unfamiliarity with regional and domestic policies, but it's going full steam ahead on investment in an industry where there is much to gain, but also much to risk.

Francisco Urdinez, a politics professor at the Catholic University of Chile, cites the aborted Mexico City to Querétaro railway project as a cautionary tale: The deal was canceled for corruption, and public opinion singled out the Chinese firm in the scandal, even though it was part of a multi-company consortium.

"I think the reputational harm ends up being greater than the project's potential benefits," says Urdinez. "Chinese firms have more to lose than win out of uncertainties around the risks of domestic corruption here in Latin America."

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Taiwan To Hong Kong To L.A., Birth Of Bubble Tea Culture

Originating in Taiwan, bubble tea was one of many products hard hit by the pandemic. But the internationally-beloved, tapioca-based drink isn't just any import any longer — it's an entire culture.

TAIPEI — In mid-April, a report entitled "Another Unlikely Pandemic Shortage: Boba Tea" appeared inThe New York Times. This rang alarm bells for fans of the great Taiwanese delicacy, also called bubble tea, milk tea or Zhenzhu Naicha in Mandarin Chinese. The bad news came just as the weather was warming up, the tensions brought about by COVID-19 were easing, and the food and beverage industry was hoping for a pick-up in business.

The global pandemic caused a major shortage in the supply chain of tapioca pearls, bubble tea's most important ingredient that sets it apart from other beverages. More than 90 % of tapioca starch comes from Taiwan, as the three partners of Boba Guys, a franchise chain, explained to their clients in an Instagram post.

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Taiwan, Keeping Calm And Watching China

Despite a recent record number of Chinese military jets approaching Taiwanese air space, both citizens and leaders in the island nation have developed a method for living with the threat of an invasion from China.

China has been flying a record number of military aircrafts into Taiwan's “air defense identification zone" in recent days, heightening regional concerns about the risk of military escalation or even an outright war.

Taiwanese people are largely alert, but not alarmed. So, why are the Taiwanese not losing their minds over what seems to be intensifying “drums of war"?

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Zuck’s Big Loss, Taiwan On Alert, Kirk In Space

👋 Na ngeen def!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where much of the world gets back online after a six-hour outage of Facebook-linked apps, the rich and powerful try to close the Pandora Papers box, and a Star Trek icon will boldly go where few have gone before. And remember that polluted Argentine lake that turned pink in July? Well, it's not pink anymore ...

[*Wolof - Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania]

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Pandora Papers, Japan’s New PM, Spicy Medicine Nobel

👋 Bom dia!*

Welcome to Monday, where the financial secrets of the rich and powerful are exposed in a massive data leak, the two Koreas get on the phone for the first time in months, Japan has a new prime minister and there's a spicy Nobel prize winner for medicine. For Paris-based daily Les Echos, we have Anna Rousseau reporting on how fashion-famous France is finally starting to catch up with the plus-size market.

[*Portuguese]

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Society
Lee Chiu Hing

Hong Kong's International Food Scene Gets Political

In its diaspora around Asia and the rest of the world, Hong Kong's identity is closely tied to its food and tea. Now with the pressures from the mainland, the stakes are suddenly multiplied.

HONG KONG — Hot wonton soup, a cup of milk tea: These are among the dishes Hong Kongers around the world long for when they want a taste of their hometown. Leaving Hong Kong is a challenge for some, less so for others, but virtually all expats eventually grow tired of dishes from their adopted countries, and seek familiar flavors. But more and more, this desire has developed beyond nostalgia to become a question with much more at stake.

The evolution of Hong Kong food culture has, in retrospect, become a construction of the city's identity, from the internationalized food scene in the early years of the last century, which gathered regional cuisines from around the globe, to exportation, which has brought about a new generation of Hon Kong-style tea restaurants in China, Taiwan and even Japan.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin & Bertrand Hauger

North Korea Fires Missiles, R. Kelly Guilty, New John Lennon Song

👋 Hyvää huomenta!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where North Korea conducts its third weapon tests in just over two weeks, R&B singer R. Kelly is found guilty of sex trafficking, and an unearthed John Lennon tape is up for auction in Denmark. Meanwhile, we take a look at why despite being an oil- and gas-rich country, Iran has been marred by widespread blackouts in recent years.

[*Finnish]

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In The News
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Germany’s Close Race, San Marino Approves Abortion Legalization, Turtle At Airport

👋 Laphi!*

Welcome to Monday, where post-Merkel Germany looks set shift to a center-left coalition, San Marino and Switzerland catch up with the rest of Europe on two key social issues, and a turtle slows things down at a Japan airport. Meanwhile, we take an international look at different ways to handle beloved, yet controversial, comic books and graphic novels characters.

[*Aymara, Bolivia]

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In The News
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Myanmar Kidnappings, Suspect Chinese Cell Phone, Side-Eyeing Chloe Auction

👋 안녕하세요*

Welcome to Thursday, where Tunisia's president tightens his grip, Lithuania tells people to throw away their Made-in-China phones, and a memeworthy side-eye gets the NFT treatment. Chinese-language weekly Economic Observer also explains why some cities in China waste millions in massive building projects that go unused.

[*Korean]

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Society
Chen Zhe

Why Chinese Cities Waste Millions On Vanity Building Projects

The so-called "White Elephants," or massive building projects that go unused, keep going up across China as local officials mix vanity and a misdirected attempt to attract business and tourists. A perfect example the 58-meter, $230 million statue of Guan Yu, a beloved military figure from the Third Century, that nobody seems interested in visiting.

BEIJING — The Chinese Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development recently ordered the relocation of a giant statue in Jingzhou, in the central province of Hubei. The 58-meter, 1,200-ton statue depicts Guan Yu, a widely worshipped military figure from the Eastern Han Dynasty in the Third century A.D.

The government said it ordered the removal because the towering presence "ruins the character and culture of Jingzhou as a historic city," and is "vain and wasteful." The relocation project wound up costing the taxpayers approximately ¥300 million ($46 million).

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Bertrand Hauger

Taliban & United Nations, China’s Green Pledge, Tale Of Tails

👋 Laba diena!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Afghanistan's Taliban demand to speak at the United Nations, China takes a bold ecological stand and we find out why monkeys kept their tails and humans didn't. Business magazine America Economia also looks at how Latin American countries are looking to attract a new generation of freelancers known as "digital nomads" in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

[*Lithuanian]

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In The News
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

Worldcrunch Today: Checking China, Blow To ISIS In Africa, Prison Romance Ban

👋 ¡Buenos días!*

Welcome to Thursday, where the U.S., UK and Australia form a new pact to check China, a top ISIS leader in Africa is killed and a heroic Dutch goat doesn't chicken out. Meanwhile, French business daily Les Echos shows us how the future of NFTs is also in the (trading) cards.

[*Spanish]

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China
Shuaishuai Wang

'Sissy Men' Purge? Tech Is Other Target Of China's Effeminate Male Ban

Government regulators in Beijing have banned the TV and streaming appearance of what is referred to with the slur "niang pao" – literally, "girlie guns." It is clearly a homophobic and transphobic measure, but the real aim may be to keep the increasingly powerful tech platforms in line.

-Analysis-

The Chinese government has recently taken action against what it calls “sissy men" – males, often celebrities, deemed too effeminate.

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In The News
Clémence Guimier, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

Norway Votes Against Its Oil, Putin Self-Isolating, Potty-Training Cows

👋 Ia Orana!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Norway veers left, Putin is self-quarantining, and German scientists try to potty-train cows. Meanwhile, Delhi-based news website The Wire applauds India's recent Olympic gold medals but asks why it can't win Nobel Prizes?

[*Tahitian]

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

North Korea Missile Tests, Taliban Rules For Women Students, King’s Hair

👋 Dobrý deň!*

Welcome to Monday, where North Korea tests a new long-range missile, the Taliban will not ban women from university this time (though under several conditions), and a jar of hair has the auction world all shook up. Meanwhile, French daily Les Echos looks at how cosmetic and apparel companies in China (a country usually associated with low quality and fast fashion) have moved upmarket in recent years.

[*Slovak]

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