In The News

China On High COVID Alert, Tonga Eruption Aftermath, Anne Frank’s Traitor

👋 Halo!*

Welcome to Monday, where China is on high COVID alert as Lunar New Year celebrations kick off, Tonga reels from a massive underwater eruption, and a veteran FBI agent may have found out who betrayed Anne Frank to the Nazis. Meanwhile, Russian daily Kommersant recounts how Kazakhstan has passed from one strongman to another.

[*Sundanese - Indonesia]

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BoJo Under Pressure, Landmark Syria Trial, Gruyère Row

👋 Ahoj!*

Welcome to Thursday, where Boris Johnson faces rising calls to resign, an ex Syrian colonel is convicted in a landmark torture trial, and the U.S. finds loopholes in the Gruyère cheese label. We also mark 10 years since the Costa Concordia disaster off the coast of Tuscany.

[*Czech]

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China's Loose Credit Gambit

While other major economies are taking steps to tighten credit, China is acting to cheapen it, in order to revive its economic activity and help big firms repay their debts. But will it fuel global inflation, or worse, stagflation?

-Analysis-

It has recently become clear that Chinese economic growth is losing steam after a third consecutive negative quarter and a fragile 4.9% annual growth rate. This is starkly below China's average historical long-term growth rates and has depressed its stock market values. But China is not a country easily deterred by challenges and has decided to apply the principle that big problems need big solutions.

We are now seeing the world's economic blocks take drastically different approaches. The United States and Europe are envisaging restricting credit flows in the economy by raising interest rates, while China has chosen the opposite: pulling out all the stops to inject cash and increase liquidity.

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Six Massive Clean Energy Projects That Offer A Shot Of Climate Hope

Last fall's COP26 climate summit showed the way to, not, move forward on tackling the climate crisis. But all's not lost. From the biggest solar farm in the world to a huge storage plant for C02, here are some of the largest renewable energy projects in the pipeline around the globe.

Following a decade-long fanfare of private and government pledges to combat the warming of the planet, last month’s United Nations COP26 climate summit in Glasgow painted a grim picture of the world’s climate progress. The takeaway: the world is on course to overshoot the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Accords in all but the most optimistic scenario, which would require all announced targets to be fully implemented.

That scenario, however, seems distant today as the pivot to a sustainable energy market is unevenly distributed across the globe, with many fossil-fuel-dependent countries still struggling to close the energy gap as demand for power increases. What is worse, while some countries have improved their ambitions, others slipped backward at COP26 by retracting set climate targets.

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Future
Dan Wu

Taiwan's Virtual "Tuck-Me-In" Platform Shows COVID Impact On Dating Apps

Do you long for bedtime stories told remotely? Or miss the companionship a voice provides? There's an app for that, which also responds to special COVID-19 needs of dating apps that allows for more direct online communication.

TAIPEI — PlayOne is a popular app in Taiwan that provides online partners for streaming video gaming and other chat functionality. But recently the app began to offer online companionship with a new option: “Calling to sleep.”

On this particular platform, a user can select the characteristics of their ideal companion to be nearby, virtually, when bedtime arrives. A range of features can be selected, including the go-to-sleep voice and appearance of the person who is there with you remotely as you drift off to sleep. The price? One sleep buddy says that he charges about $13 per hour.

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In The News
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

Booster Hope, Jimmy Lai Convicted, Oreo Wine

👋 Sveiki!*

Welcome to Thursday, where boosters appear to work on Omicron, Jimmy Lai is found guilty and there’s a mind-blowingly bad idea for a new wine. We also see how Ukrainians are measuring the Russian threat of an invasion.

[*Latvian]

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Geopolitics
Dominique Moisi

From Taliban To Taiwan, The Limits Of Military Power

China is beefing up its military arsenal, with Taiwan as its target. However, as with the continued difficulty to control the terrain in Afghanistan, we increasingly see that military power is far from ensuring the hegemony hoped for by stronger parties.

-Analysis-

PARIS — "How many divisions does the Pope have?" once famously asked Joseph Stalin, highlighting that despite religious or political authority, military force can always prevail in geopolitics. However, in the 21st century, one can legitimately ask what military force is for.

In Afghanistan, more than three months after the Taliban's lightning victory, terrorist violence continues. It seems that members of the defeated regular army have joined the ranks of the "fundamentalist international" to continue the fight against the Taliban. In short, military victory on the ground has not solved anything. The Taliban face the resilience of those nostalgic for freedom and progress on the one hand, and Islamic fanatics on the other.

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In The News
Jane Herbelin, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Where Is Peng Shuai, Malcolm X Murder Case Reversal, iPhone DIY

👋 Ndeewo!*

Welcome to Thursday, where drug overdose deaths top 100,000 in the U.S. for the first time, doubts and worries grow about Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and Apple finally lets users fiddle with their iPhones. Meanwhile, we also focus on 6 female athletes that have joined male teams.

[*Igbo - Nigeria]

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China
Robert Kozinets and Chih-Ling Liu

"Sheng-nu" No More - Revenge Of China's Unmarried Career Woman

The frequent use of the Chinese term "Sheng-nu," translated as "leftover women," is a sign of the lingering stigma in China of women who don't get married. But financially successful women are turning the tables on the question of social status.

In China, if you are female, educated and unmarried by the age of 27, people might use a particular term – "Sheng-nu" – to describe your social status. It translates simply as "leftover women".

The label was deliberately invented to curb the rising number of single women in a traditional society which sometimes views not marrying as a moral transgression. Some even consider it a threat to national security.

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

Biden-Xi Meeting, EU v. Belarus, Valentino Rossi Retires

👋 Bonghjornu!*

Welcome to Monday, where leaders of the world's two superpowers meet (virtually), the EU is set to tighten sanctions against Belarus, and an Italian racing legend retires on top. We also have a Ukrainian news report on the methods used by Russian authorities to target the Muslim minority Crimean Tatars.

[*Corsican]

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Green
Clemens Wergin

Why China Will Be The Winner In The Geopolitics Of Climate Change

Energy issues are power issues. That is why the fight against climate change will also lead to geopolitical upheavals — to Europe's detriment. China, one of the biggest climate sinners, is likely to benefit from this because the People's Republic has a strategic ace up its sleeve.

-Analysis-

BERLIN — In 1709, an English metalworker discovered that coal was suitable to replace wood and waste as a fuel for smelting furnaces. However, it took until the end of the century for this to develop into the revolutionary industrial revolution — and another two centuries for coal to overtake wood and waste as the world's leading fuel. And after the first oil discoveries in Pennsylvania in 1859, it took another century for oil to replace coal as the world's most important energy source. Measured against this history, the changes that climate change seeks to force will require dramatic speed.

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Coronavirus
Meike Eijsberg

COVID-19 Lessons From Singapore, Facing Its First Crisis So Late In The Pandemic

Its Zero-COVID strategy has mostly worked, and vaccinations are going well. Now a breakout spread is raising multiple questions for the Asian nation and global financial hub.

-Analysis-

When it came to COVID-19, Singapore had seemed to do everything right. Back in March 2020, the wealthy Asian city-state didn't hesitate to impose a strict lockdown. Indeed, Singapore officials took the risk so seriously, that they opted for a Zero-COVID strategy similar to the one countries like China and New Zealand used to stop the spread at virtually all costs.

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In The News
✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet & Jane Herbelin

Quitting Coal, China’s #MeToo, World’s Best Cheese

👋 Goeie!*

Welcome to Thursday, where world leaders pledge to quit coal, #MeToo accusations hit China's highest levels of power and the world's new best cheese has been elected. Our Bogota-based journalist Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra also shines a light on the violence against LGBTQ+ in some Latin American countries, following the murder of a trans activist in Honduras.

[*Frisian]

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food / travel
Gwendolyn Ledger

How Asia's High-End Demand Fuels South American Coffee Exports

Amid post-pandemic trade distortions and changing consumer habits, Latin American countries seeking to boost coffee exports should eye a growing specialty market in prosperous Asian countries.

SANTIAGO — Like many sectors of the economy, coffee production has suffered the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. But COVID-19 and a consequent change of habits that include working from home have also boosted consumption of hot and caffeinated drinks. Now, cultivators of a crop grown around the Tropic of Capricorn are striving to meet this global demand of around three billion cups of coffee per day.

As marketing consultants Euromonitor observed in a recent study, coffee is an eminently social drink and global lockdowns distorted social habits. At the same time, consumers are also seeking out drinks thought to boost the immune system and provide comfort during this troubling era.

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Society
Maximilian Kalkhof

Party Lines: Why China Prefers Virtual Stars For Show Business Fame

Hologram idols are the new stars of the entertainment industry in China, performing in live concerts and in front of audiences of millions. It's not just tech companies that are happy about the boom, the leadership in Beijing is too for more political reasons.

BEIJING — Luo Tianyi celebrated her breakthrough at the Spring Festival Gala. The show is broadcast every year on state television at the beginning of the Chinese New Year. With approximately 700 million viewers, it is not only the TV program with the largest audience worldwide, it is also one of the most influential shows in Chinese culture.

What's special about Luo Tianyi is that she's not human. The singer is a hologram, an avatar. And the first virtual idol to make it into the Spring Festival Gala.

Luo can look back on a glittering career. She was born out of a cooperation between a Chinese and a Japanese company, and in 2012 she was introduced to the public. In the years that followed, she rose to stardom.

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Geopolitics
Dominique Moïsi

Why Japan Is America's New No. 1 Ally (And May Not Want The Honor)

Asia has become the new center of the world because of China's growing power, which in Washington's eyes has turned Japan from an important ally to the most important. But is Tokyo ready for the newfound responsibility?

-Analysis-

PARIS — "Who's the No. 1 ally of the United States in the world?" For a long time after World War II, the answer to this question was obvious: Britain. The United Kingdom envisioned itself as the would-be Athens to the new Rome.

The special relationship that existed between London and Washington after the War was unique. Indeed, it irritated the likes of France's Charles de Gaulle: How could one trust a country, which was certainly geographically and culturally European, but which, between the continent and the open ocean, would always choose the latter?

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