Greetings from London…
…which is in a slightly subdued mood, after the England women’s football team lost to Spain in the World Cup final in Sydney. Still, it’s been an enthralling tournament, with no shortage of tight games and surprises—a sign that elite women’s football has become much more competitive. One of my colleagues stood back from the excitement to note that female footballers, like many sportswomen, must play with rules and equipment designed for men, despite the very different demands sport places on women’s bodies. Whether that means pitches, balls and goals should be smaller isn’t just a technical question. A lot of players would give the idea short shrift.
With the weekend nearly over, it’s time to turn away from the sports field. One political event to watch is the BRICS summit, which starts on Tuesday in Johannesburg. Our correspondent calls it a “defining moment” for the grouping. China is keen to admit more members, to increase the group’s global heft (and its own). A weakened Russia is likely to go along with it. Brazil, India and South Africa aren’t so sure. We reckon that 18 countries, including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Mexico, are realistic candidates.
Only four of the five BRICS countries’ heads of state will be in Johannesburg. Vladimir Putin is staying in Russia, because South Africa, as a member of the International Criminal Court, would be obliged to arrest him—an embarrassing way to treat a guest. Mr Putin’s war in Ukraine has not been going according to plan; Ukraine’s counter-offensive has been making a bit more progress of late. But it is still slow going. Our new piece examines the political implications for Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.
The BRICS’ biggest cheese, Xi Jinping, also has plenty to worry about: China’s economy is stalling. Last week Evergrande, a long-troubled property company, filed for bankruptcy protection in America. A far bigger one, which goes by the deceptively comforting name of Country Garden, also seems to be in difficulty. The malaise is a chief reason for the disillusionment among young Chinese people with their prospects. Mr Xi says they should “eat bitterness”, as their parents and grandparents did. Not surprisingly, many are turning a deaf ear.
Older readers will recall that the term “BRICs” was coined in 2001 at Goldman Sachs—to be precise, by the bank’s then chief economist, Jim O’Neill. (The “s” was capitalised after South Africa joined in 2010.) Curiously enough, Goldman has its troubles too. Its recent performance has been patchy, and as our Wall Street correspondent reports, internal discontent with its chief executive, David Solomon, has turned into open mutiny.
It remains difficult to avoid Donald Trump. His indictment in Georgia, along with 18 others, over his attempt to rig the presidential election in 2020, is the most sweeping yet. But the Trump-averse need not fear tuning in to the first debate among Republican candidates for 2024 on Wednesday. The frontrunner won’t be turning up.
Thank you for writing to us. I suspect that our package on Germany’s economy, labelling it (again) the “sick man of Europe”, may move some of you to get in touch. I can assure you that we weren’t motivated by Schadenfreude. The author is German. Regardless, you can reach us at [email protected].