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- Tonight's edition (1,907 words, 7 minutes) starts in the air near Taiwan.
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Welcome back to Axios World.
Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Anna Moneymaker, Yorgos Karahalis/Bloomberg via Getty Images
China has flown 145 fighter planes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the past four days, including a record 52 today, escalating Beijing's campaign of intimidation toward the self-governing island and deepening fears of a devastating war, Axios’ Zach Basu and I write.
Why it matters: Beijing has been increasingly explicit about its willingness to bring Taiwan under its control by force. Most experts doubt any move to do so is imminent, but the “Taiwan question” is taking on newfound urgency in Washington: Should the U.S. stand aside if Beijing invades a key democratic partner, or should it wage war against a fellow superpower?
What they’re saying: Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster demurred today when I asked whether the Trump administration had been prepared to defend Taiwan militarily, instead making an argument in favor of “strategic ambiguity” — the policy under which successive administrations have avoided answering that question.
Driving the news: The aerial incursions came during the celebrations of China's National Day on Oct. 1, and they were likely intended in part to stoke national pride. Still, Taiwan's foreign minister said the island was preparing for war.
The big picture: In a speech earlier this year, Xi Jinping pledged "complete reunification" with Taiwan, which the mainland Communist government views as a breakaway province that must be brought to heel.
What to watch: An invasion does not appear imminent, but the chances of a devastating miscalculation grow each time a Chinese fighter jet enters Taiwan's ADIZ, says Timothy Heath, senior international defense researcher at the RAND Corporation.
"Is this place for sale?" Aliyev visits London in 2018. Photo: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Media via Getty
Here’s a snapshot of some of the leaders implicated in the Pandora Papers — a massive leak of financial documents sifted through by an international consortium of journalists — and how they’re responding.
Russian President Vladimir Putin: A shell company purchased a $4.1 million apartment in Monte Carlo in 2003 for a woman named Svetlana Krivonogikh, who reportedly had an affair (and possibly a daughter) with Putin, per WaPo.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, elected on promises to fight corruption, allegedly did not declare a home in the south of France purchased on his behalf by an offshore investment firm.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, his family and close associates were involved in property deals in the U.K. worth at least $540 million, per the reports. He has long faced accusations of looting his country.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II reportedly used offshore entities to buy at least 15 homes (including Malibu mansions) during his reign, together worth over $100 million.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s family owned at least 11 offshore companies with tens of millions of dollars in assets.
Allies of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, including the finance minister, also were named in the reports.
What to watch: Dozens more current and former world leaders appeared in the documents. This story is far from over.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame dons military fatigues on a visit to Cabo Delgado. Photo: Imon Wohlfahrt/AFP via Getty
1. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte isn't running for vice president after all. He may be clearing the way for his daughter to seek the presidency.
2. The former mayor of a small Italian town has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for charges including abetting illegal immigration. The mayor, Domenico Lucano, had been praised internationally for integrating hundreds of migrants into the community.
3. Algeria's government has accused its former colonial ruler France of "genocide" and recalled its ambassador to Paris over comments by French President Emmanuel Macron it described as "inadmissible," Axios' Yacob Reyes writes.
4. Rwandan troops have pushed insurgents out of Mozambique's besieged Cabo Delgado region in a matter of weeks after local forces had failed to do so, flexing the country's military might and willingness to use it beyond its borders, the FT reports.
Screengrab via Apple Maps
Today we're visiting the world's largest religious structure and one of the most recognizable. It dates to the 12th century and features on a national flag.
Scroll to the bottom for the answer.
Former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili remains in jail after returning to the country ahead of municipal elections on Sunday despite having been sentenced in absentia to six years in prison for alleged abuse of office.
Driving the news: The U.S. State Department today urged Georgian authorities to “ensure that Mr. Saakashvili is afforded fair treatment.” Georgian authorities, meanwhile, have been attempting to signal that international pressure will have no effect.
The backstory: Saakashvili dominated Georgian politics from 2004 to 2013 and was praised for his political and economic reforms but criticized for his authoritarian tendencies. Once in exile, the larger-than-life figure established himself as a political player in Ukraine.
What to watch: This crisis could be too much for Georgia's crumbling democratic institutions to handle, Carl Bildt writes in the Washington Post.
An F-35 makes a stop in Switzerland during the procurement process. Photo: Gunter Fischer/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty
Switzerland will soon become the 16th country to possess advanced F-35 jets — unless activists manage to thwart the $5.5 billion deal by forcing a referendum, Axios fellow Fabienne Kinzelmann writes.
Why it matters: An activist group called "Schweiz ohne Armee" (GSoA) is teaming up with left-leaning political parties to campaign against the purchase, arguing that the jets are too expensive and threaten the concept of Swiss neutrality. One month into their campaign they’ve collected more than 25,000 signatures — one-quarter of the 100,000 needed for a referendum, with 17 months still to go.
Flashback: A previous referendum on the government’s plan to buy new stealth aircraft passed last September by a margin of 50.1% to 49.9%, making clear how divisive the issue is for Swiss voters.
The other side: Jonas Kampus, a member of GSoA’s secretariat, tells Axios that Switzerland has no need for “luxury fighter jets” — particularly those that mean U.S. intelligence would “always be in the cockpit,” as GSoA claims on its website.
The big picture: Switzerland is known for its neutrality, but it maintains a military — including through compulsory military service — for its national defense and internal security. Defense spending hit a 25-year high in 2020 at 0.8% of GDP.
Johnson on the stump in 2019. Photo: Frank Augstein-WPA Pool/Getty
After Boris Johnson’s Conservatives won a thumping “Get Brexit Done” majority in the U.K.’s Dec. 2019 election — breaking down Labour’s “red wall” in the north of England — Sebastian Payne set off on a road trip.
Payne, a political journalist for the FT and occasional contributor to this newsletter, aimed to determine why constituencies that had elected only Labour MP’s for the better part of a century had shifted to the Tories.
My thought bubble: I went to the U.K. ahead of the election, discussed some of these issues with Payne over a pint, and wrote a piece comparing the red wall to the U.S. Rust Belt states that swung to Donald Trump in 2016.
Storm over Sydney. Photo: Mark Evans/Getty Images
"If you talk about democracy — I probably will question it and laugh at it. You were engaged in building one in Afghanistan, and the people believed in it."— Afghan ambassador to the U.S. Adela Raz, asked by Axios' Jonathan Swan whether she sees America as the leader of the free world. More from the interview.
Answer: Angkor Wat.