🌍 Foxconn billionaire enters Taiwan presidential race

Plus: Things are getting worse in Syria

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Hi there Intriguer. Pickleball might be the most annoying sound in history, but the eruption of Krakatoa this week in 1883 was among the loudest. The blast in Indonesia could be heard almost 5,000km away on the Indian Ocean island of Rodrigues, where residents reported hearing the “distant roar of heavy guns”.

Today’s briefing is a 5 min read:

  • 🇹🇼 A billionaire tech founder joins Taiwan’s presidential race.

  • 🇸🇾 Things are getting worse in Syria.

  • Plus: China dominates offshore wind energy, how the papers are covering the surprising meeting between Libyan and Israeli foreign ministers, and meet the workers behind the AI boom.

⏱️ Around the world in sixty seconds

  1. 🇨🇳 China: President Xi Jinping made a surprise visit to Xinjiang over the weekend, and urged local authorities to “effectively control illegal religious activities”. Beijing has been accused of carrying out widespread human rights violations against Uyghurs in the province.

  2. 🇳🇴 Norway: Oslo has announced it’s earmarking $6M per year until 2030 to build up grain stockpiles, in light of the pandemic and ongoing conflict in Europe. The aim is to have a three-month stockpile always at hand.

  3. 🇮🇩 Indonesia: ASEAN members Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia have agreed to promote the use of local currencies in cross-border transactions. The aim is to boost tourism, trade and remittances across the regional bloc.

  4. 🇺🇸 US: Central bankers and economists from the US, Europe, Japan and beyond wrapped up their annual gathering in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on Saturday. The US Fed Chair maintained a hawkish tone, sayingwe are prepared to raise rates further if appropriate”.

  5. 🇬🇦 Gabon: Authorities cut the internet and imposed a curfew as Gabon held presidential elections over the weekend. The electoral commission hasn’t yet announced whether the united opposition has managed to break the Bongo family’s 56-year rule.

🇹🇼 Taiwan | Politics

Foxconn founder Terry Gou is running for president in Taiwan.

Taiwanese tech mogul joins presidential race

Ending months of speculation, the billionaire founder of tech giant Foxconn has announced he’ll run in Taiwan’s 2024 presidential elections. Terry Gou (72) will campaign as an independent after failing to secure the nomination of Taiwan’s main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT).

Gou, who has deep ties in China, vowed during his launch to never let Taiwan become “the next Ukraine”, pledging not to “bow to China’s pressure”.

His bid attracted a fair bit of international attention for a few reasons:

  1. 📱 Most of Foxconn’s footprint is in China, and Gou remains both a Foxconn board member and shareholder, raising questions about how he’d handle pressure from Beijing.

  2. ⚖️ Taiwan’s elections have long been two-horse races, but a third party is now polling well, and Gou’s entry as the fourth horse splits the vote even further.

  3. 🌬️ This isn’t the entrepreneur’s first foray into politics: in 2019 he launched his first (unsuccessful) presidential candidacy, citing inspiration from the sea goddess Mazu.

Gou will need plenty of help to win in January: it’s 290,000 signatures just to qualify as an independent candidate, and the road thereafter looks pretty steep for anyone without the backing of a party machine.

Intrigue's take: Taiwan’s electoral process is simple: whoever gets the most votes wins (i.e., no runoffs, no preferences).

But a simple process can still bring a complex race: with the opposition vote now split across three relatively China-friendly candidates including Gou, his entry likely benefits the ruling, independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

And yet… we’re still months out, there are big egos in the mix, and an opposition alliance remains possible (if unlikely). So anything could happen.

Also worth noting:

  • In 2022, Foxconn earned $216B in revenue and employed a million employees worldwide. It produces a reported 70% of all iPhones.

  • Gou says Beijing wouldn’t use Foxconn (China’s single largest private employer) as leverage, as this would harm China itself.

  • Lai Ching-te, Taiwan’s current vice president and the ruling DPP’s candidate, is topping polls at 39% (double the next candidate).

📰 How newspapers covered…

A meeting between the Libyan foreign minister and her Israeli counterpart

Tripoli, Libya

“Libya's Foreign Minister holds meeting with Israeli counterpart despite no diplomatic relations”

Ankara, Turkey

“Libya’s premier suspends foreign minister over secret meeting with Israeli envoy”


“FM Cohen blasted for ‘amateurism’ after publicizing meeting with Libyan counterpart”

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🇸🇾 Syria | Geopolitics & security

Syria is in trouble

A guest piece by Charles Lister, the Middle East Institute

After more than 12 years, Syria’s crisis continues as the country remains mired by insurgency, terrorism, geopolitical hostilities, organised crime, mass displacement and crippling economic and humanitarian crises.

With the West distracted by Ukraine, great power competition and challenges at home, governments in the Middle East chose to re-engage Syria’s regime in the Spring of 2023. It was described as a “conditional” effort to resolve Syria’s crisis, seeking:

  1. 🧑‍🤝‍🧑 A return of millions of Syrian refugees

  2. 💊 An end to the regime-coordinated captagon drugs trade

  3. 💰 The stabilisation of Syria and recovery of its economy, and

  4. 🖋️ A negotiated political settlement.

Four months later, this regional initiative has proven to be an unmitigated disaster, with every aspect of Syria’s crisis significantly worsening:

  • Syria’s economy has begun a precipitous collapse, with a soaring cost of living crisis triggering rare public expressions of anger from within Assad’s minority Alawite community.

  • Protesters have taken to the streets throughout regime-held areas of southern Syria, including the Druze-majority governorate of Suwayda, demanding Assad's downfall as the economic situation spirals out of control.

  • Russia has used its UN Security Council veto to close down a mechanism for cross-border aid delivery to northwestern Syria, forcing the UN to consider giving Assad’s regime authority over any delivery – despite its track record of systematically impeding and stealing aid while enforcing starvation sieges on opposition areas.

  • More than $1B of Syrian-made captagon has since been seized across the region, and Syria’s captagon trade has now penetrated Europe, with a production facility discovered in Germany in July.

  • Refugees haven’t returned, and new UN polling revealed only 1% would consider doing so. Meanwhile, Syrian refugees have comprised a significant proportion of recent ship sinkings in the Mediterranean, as they flee further afield.

  • Conflict hostilities have escalated markedly, with Russia resuming airstrikes in the northwest, tribes rising up in arms against regime forces in the northeast, and ISIS dramatically resurging in the regime-administered central desert.

In short, Syria’s crisis is far from over and all the root causes and drivers of instability have been exacerbated by the recent regional normalisation of Assad’s regime. The West cannot afford to ignore Syria any longer, as the situation there is rapidly spinning out of control.

Intrigue’s take: Charles is a brilliant observer on Syria and the broader region. His on-the-ground experience and deep networks offer unique insights with global implications. It’s well worth following Charles and his work on Twitter/X.


🎧 Today on Intrigue Outloud

Credits: Reuters

Where does Russia’s Wagner Group go without its leader?

🗳️ Poll time!

Do you think economic ties are enough of a deterrent for Beijing's policy towards Taiwan?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

📊 Chart of the day

Credits: Financial Times.

Global Wind Energy Council data suggests the world will rapidly boost its offshore wind energy capacity over the coming decade. More than 99% of offshore wind installations are currently located in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, with China alone now accounting for almost half the world’s capacity.

Yesterday’s poll: Does the BRICS expansion make the bloc more formidable?

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 💪 Definitely, there's power in numbers (23%)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🥊 Nope, too many competing interests (74%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ ✍️ Other (write-in!) (2%)

Your two cents:

  • 💪 I.P: “It legitimizes the group by proving it is at least somewhat desirable for middle-income countries to join. However, I don't think pure numbers outweigh the weaknesses of the alliance such as China's outsized influence and incompatibility between certain members (China-India, Iran-S.A., etc.). I think the more incompatible states they invite, the closer they get to falling apart.”

  • 🥊 A.R.F: “Too many cooks in the kitchen always leads to some sort of fire.”

  • ✍️ R.S: “It’s a blend of both […] when there are similar interests, the increased numbers and wealth will bolster their influence.”


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