🌍 Turkey goes nuclear

Plus: Where is China's defence minister?

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Hi there Intriguer. Every democracy has the occasional nail-biter, but few can match tiny Niue in the Pacific. In 2017, two candidates there each received 19 votes, so the result was decided on a coin toss. The same two candidates then tied again in 2020 (on 26 votes), and the incumbent lost on a coin toss.

📢 PS. Our very own John Fowler is sharing a daily update from the UN in New York this week. Sign up here to get it straight to your inbox!

Today’s briefing is a 5 min read:

  • 🇹🇷 Turkey is going nuclear.

  • 🇨🇳 Another minister goes missing in China.

  • Plus: A cracking skyline, how the papers are covering the US auto strike, and why you shouldn’t wear Crocs to the G20.

⏱️ Around the world in sixty seconds

  1. 🇰🇷 South Korea: The US has approved the sale of 25 additional F-35 fighter jets to South Korea. The announcement comes after the North Korean and Russian leaders discussed “possibilities” for military cooperation last week.

  2. 🇽🇰 Kosovo: Kosovar authorities have rejected an EU-sponsored plan to normalise ties with Serbia, after months of negotiations. Both Serbia and Kosovo aspire to join the EU, but that’s unlikely to happen unless the two Balkan nations can normalise ties.

  3. 🇹🇭 Thailand: Chinese tourists will now be able to vacation in Thailand visa-free. The policy is aimed at rebooting Thailand’s economy after months of political instability.

  4. 🇩🇴 Dominican Republic: Santo Domingo completely closed its border with Haiti on Friday to protest against the construction of a Haitian canal. The Dominican Republic says the canal will divert water from the Massacre River, which the two neighbours share.

  5. 🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia: A Yemeni Houthi delegation headed to Saudi Arabia late last week in an effort to negotiate a permanent ceasefire between the two warring sides. The conflict has largely subsided after a UN-brokered truce was negotiated last year.

🇹🇷 Turkey | Nuclear

Turkey goes nuclear

Turkey and China are reportedly (🇹🇷) in the final stages of their decade-long negotiations to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey.

Russia is already building Turkey’s first plant (it’s expected to come online next year). And South Korea and Russia are in the mix to build Turkey’s second plant. So this proposed China-built plant would be Turkey’s third.

Ankara has a range of interests at play here. It wants to:

  • 🛢️ Cut its spending on oil and gas imports ($80B last year)

  • 🌱 Hit its 2053 net zero target, while

  • ⚖️ Avoiding becoming reliant on any single energy supplier.

For nuclear exporters like China, Russia, Korea, and France, it’s all about:

  • Income: Russia says it now has $200B in foreign orders

  • Leverage: Sellers not only lock in lengthy fuel and maintenance contracts, but can continue to own and operate the plant itself

  • Prestige: Only a few countries have the wherewithal to build plants

  • Industry: Some players (like Korea) have limited nuclear demand at home, meaning their industries must grow abroad or die, and

  • Competition: It boosts the influence of US rivals (like 🇷🇺 and 🇨🇳), who contrast their own ability to deliver with that of the West.

So the stakes are high. And these deals are playing out everywhere. Russia claims a 70% global market share, with 70 projects (MOUs, research, and full plants) across 30 countries from Rwanda to Bolivia.

Intrigue's take: NATO doesn’t really prevent members (like Turkey) from partnering with strategic rivals (like Russia and China) on key tech (like nuclear). But this likely Turkey-China deal will play into the ongoing debate around Turkey’s increasingly multi-aligned approach to the world.

And yet the thing is… Turkey is hardly alone. It feels like this same story is playing out on almost every continent, across almost every industry: the brief post-Cold War order is fading away, and capitals are hedging their bets on what’s next.

Also worth noting:

  • While looking to import nuclear tech from China, Turkey is exporting its own drone tech to Taiwan.

  • Russia supplies half of global demand for enriched uranium, including to buyers in the US and Europe. Russian executives are under sanctions, but not the Russian nuclear sector itself.

📰 How newspapers covered…

Industrial action by US auto workers

Mumbai, India

“About 13,000 workers go on strike seeking better wages and benefits from Detroit’s three automakers”

London, UK

“Strike pits US auto union in existential struggle over shift to electric vehicles”

Bogotá, Colombia

“Historic auto-sector strike in the US threatens the country’s economy”

Today’s newsletter is supported by The Economist

You’ve read the news, now understand the implications. At The Economist, we provide global reporting and in-depth analysis, exploring why events happen and what they will mean for people, politics, business and the economy.

With expert data journalism, rigorous fact-checking and global thinking at our core, The Economist will broaden your worldview while refining your understanding of the events that matter.

🇨🇳 China | Politics

Li Shangfu has gone missing

Where’s China’s defence minister?

Li Shangfu, who was only just appointed China’s defence minister in March, hasn’t been seen publicly since 29 August.

Beijing first blamed a “health condition when Li was suddenly unable to meet Vietnamese counterparts earlier this month. And China’s foreign ministry said it was “not aware of the situation” when asked late last week.

But US officials now say he’s under investigation for corruption. The details are murky, but Li ran China’s big-spending defence procurement office from 2017 to 2022, so there’s been no shortage of opportunity.

Intrigue’s take: Li would be China’s 4th general and 2nd minister to get the boot since July. So we feel obliged to paraphrase Oscar Wilde: to lose one official may be regarded as misfortune; to lose five looks like carelessness.

Corruption is an entrenched issue here, so there’s a question whether these officials committed some additional sin (like disloyalty) to land in trouble. But either way, this also raises questions around President Xi himself, like:

  • his insight (did he not know there were clouds over these officials?)

  • his judgement (perhaps he knew, but appointed them anyway?)

  • his effectiveness (is his decade-long corruption drive working?), and

  • his own position (do these sackings reflect strength or weakness?)

But like so many things in today’s opaque China, the answer is… we don’t know. And these days, uncertainty there means uncertainty everywhere.

Also worth noting:

  • One analyst suggests Li’s removal could enable improved US-China military relations, since Li has been under US sanctions since 2018.

🎧 Today on Intrigue Outloud

Source: Brookings

Why is the UN so far behind on its goals?
New podcast eps will drop every morning this week at 5am NYC time, with our own John and Ethan sharing the latest from the UN General Assembly.

Extra Intrigue

Your weekly roundup of the world’s more curious news:

  • A Portuguese town was flooded by red wine after two cisterns holding about 2.2 million litres of liquid burst.

  • Authorities in the south of China are on the hunt after 70 crocodiles escaped their enclosure when a typhoon hit.

  • New Delhi has renewed its temporary firecracker ban ahead of the Diwali festival to combat air pollution.

  • Mexico’s envoy at the G20 has received criticism after turning up in Crocs.

  • A hungry otter in the UK has eaten $120k worth of fish from a 4-star hotel’s ponds.

  • And in Ireland, a ‘meteor crater’ turns out to have been dug by beachgoers using toy shovels.

🗳️ Poll time!

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📸 Photo of the day

The NYC skyline from Central Park. Courtesy of our editor, Ethan

Team Intrigue touched down in the Big Apple yesterday (Sunday) for the 78th annual UN General Assembly. Be sure to subscribe to our special pop-up newsletter and follow Intrigue on Twitter for all the live updates!

Thursday’s poll: Do you think the EU should add more members?

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 👍 Yes, the bloc needs to enlarge ASAP (12%)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 🤔 Yes, but the proper conditions must be met first (71%)

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 👎 No, there's little the EU would gain (15%)

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ ✍️ Other (write in!) (3%)

Your two cents:

  • 🤔 F.L: “Adding more members will increase the economic opportunities for its members and strengthen democracy in Europe. However, it is important for candidates to show that they genuinely support the values of the EU and not just join for the benefits that it provides.”

  • 👎 K: “Agreement in Europe has been tough since Caesar left Gaul. Don’t think adding more states will make it any easier.”

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