🌍 Norway’s intelligence report warns about Chinese interests in the Arctic
Plus: Cocoa shortages in the Ivory Coast
Hola Intriguer. To our delight, we have quite the following right across the Spanish-speaking world. So… we’re testing the idea of launching Intrigue in Spanish! If you speak Español, we’d love you to join us on the journey. ¡Subscribe here!
Meanwhile… how much do you think the letter “R” is worth? Apparently, if printed on a Hong Kong license plate, it’ll fetch a cool $3 million. Or if you’re ever in Dubai and need some quick cash, a “D5” plate there goes for $9.5 million (that’s over 450 Toyota Corollas).
Today’s edition is a 4.3 min read:
- 🧊 China’s icy interests.
- 🇨🇮 Cocoa production is faltering in Ivory Coast.
- ➕ Plus: Ecuador’s president toppled (again) on this day, how the papers are covering Moldova’s coup accusations, and some Arctic facts to help you have an ice day 🥁.
– VC & EP
🎧 Check out today’s episode of Intrigue Outloud on the collapse of Moldova’s government and protests against judicial reform in Israel on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts!
🗺️ AROUND THE WORLD
- 🇨🇳 China: Beijing is responding to the US’ spy balloon accusations with some fingerpointing of its own. On Monday (13 February), China’s Foreign Ministry claimed at least 10 unauthorised US aircraft have flown over China since the beginning of 2022.
- 🇪🇺 The EU: The New York Times is suing the EU to obtain access to private texts between EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. The newspaper is arguing the texts could contain important info on the EU’s vaccine deals.
- 🇨🇴 Colombia: Talks between the Colombian government and the country’s largest remaining guerrilla group have resumed after a rocky start. The left-leaning President Petro pledged to bring “total peace” to Colombia after decades of fighting.
- 🇮🇳 India: Delhi’s tax authorities raided the offices of the BBC only weeks after the British broadcaster released a documentary critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Local media suggest the raid was carried out in connection with a tax evasion investigation.
- 🇹🇳 Tunisia: Authorities have arrested two more critics of Tunisian President Kais Saied, including a vocal opposition leader. Saied came to power in 2019 and has since enacted a series of policies to curtail the country’s democratic institutions.
🧊 CHINA | ARCTIC
Norway’s intelligence agencies eye China’s Arctic interests
Briefly: The Norwegian intelligence services just dropped their latest ‘National Threat Assessment Report’ and (un)surprisingly it features China, particularly in the Arctic.
Norwegian authorities are worried that an expanding Chinese presence in the Arctic region could “challenge Norwegian security interests by facilitating intelligence operations and creating economic dependence that is vulnerable to exploitation.”
Some context: Although China doesn’t border the Arctic, it has taken a special interest in the High North. In 2018 China proclaimed itself a “near-Arctic state” (which isn’t really a thing) after obtaining observer status within the Arctic Council, the key multilateral forum.
According to one estimate, China has spent over $90B on Arctic projects, most of which are concentrated in the mining and shipping sectors.
Intrigue’s take: The High North is a strategic region from several viewpoints. It holds energy reserves and precious mineral deposits, it’s perfect for scientific research, and its thinning ice (thanks climate change) is opening up game-changing new transit lanes for commercial and military ships. Santa also bases his overflight operations from up there.
Now, China isn’t the only non-arctic country sidling its way north. Other Arctic Council observers include the icy wonderlands of… Singapore, India and Spain. But China’s sheer size and ambition suggest more Arctic states like Norway will express unease. Tensions (and temperatures) up north will keep rising.
Also worth noting:
- Over the years, Chinese companies have purchased or attempted to purchase several old naval bases throughout Greenland and Sweden.
- China also has growing interests down south in Antarctica.
📰 GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES
How different newspapers covered: Moldovan President Maia Sandu accusing Russia of intervening to topple her country’s government.
Links: Anadolu Agency, Washington Post, Unghiul.
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🇨🇮 IVORY COAST | AGRICULTURE
Ivorian cocoa exporters on the brink of default after drought
Briefly: Cocoa exporters in Ivory Coast urgently need to find 150,000 tonnes of cocoa in order to meet their contracts and avoid default. Industry analysts estimate last week’s cocoa exports out of Ivory Coast were nearly half of what they were the same week last year.
The cocoa production cycle in Ivory Coast, producer of 43% of the world’s cocoa, follows a strict schedule: rains arrive in May and last until October, when farmers begin harvesting the main crop. Sporadic rains during the dry season from November to March then help the secondary crop (known as the mid-crop) grow to supplement cocoa supply.
But cocoa farmers are out of luck: neither rainy season rains nor dry season drizzles showed up this year. Plus, farmers say fertiliser shortages due to the Russo-Ukraine War have damaged crop abundance and quality.
Intrigue’s take: Some production challenges like fertilizer may only be temporary. But cocoa shortages will likely become more common as climate change makes Ivorian rainy seasons less predictable and productive. Get ready to swap that king-size Kit Kat for a… sigh… Hershey’s Kiss.
Also worth noting:
- Despite producing nearly half of the world’s cocoa, Ivory Coast cocoa farmers and exporters earn only 4% of the world’s annual cocoa revenues.
- Mocha drinkers beware: climate change is also impacting coffee production.
📜 ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
🎵 If at first you don’t succeed… 🎵
… pick yourself up and try again. And again and again. And then maybe one more time. On this day in 1972, Ecuadorian President José María Velasco Ibarra was ousted by the country’s military for the fourth time in four decades. He only ever served one full term as president.
Unlike his previous four administrations, Ibarra then ruled his fifth term as a dictator. After he was ousted by the military for a fifth time in 1972, the country enter a sustained period of military rule until democratic elections were held in 1979. Ibarra passed away aged 86, just days before the elections. He wasn’t standing for re-(re, re, re, re) election.
👀 EXTRA INTRIGUE
It’s fun fact Wednesday! So here are some frosty facts on the Arctic (icy what you did there):
- The Arctic and all its ice houses 10% of the world’s freshwater supplies.
- Its name comes from the Ancient Greek word for bear, arktos, as the Ursa Major constellation (aka Great Bear) is used to locate the North Star.
- About 4 million people live in the Arctic region (10% are indigenous to the area).
- Temperatures in the Arctic are rising four times faster than the global average, which contributes to its melting.
🗳️ POLL TIME!
What do you think China’s objectives are in the Arctic?
Yesterday’s poll: If Intrigue were to launch a new thematic newsletter, what would you want it to focus on?
🟨🟨🟨🟨⬜️⬜️ 💻 Tech and geopolitics (23%)
🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 💪 US-China relations (10%)
🟨🟨🟨🟨⬜️⬜️ 🛢️ Climate change and energy geopolitics (22%)
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🌐 The multipolar world order (30%)
🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 🚢 Global trade (10%)
🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ ❓ Something else (5%)
Your two cents:
- 🛢️ I.D: “THE important subject of the future – not really separable from the multi-polar world order.”
- ❓ J.F: “All of the above”