Economist 7/11/16

  1. THE South China Sea has long been one of the world’s most coveted waterways. Seven different countries—counting Taiwan, which is itself claimed by China—assert sovereignty over overlapping portions of its waters.Chinese maps feature a “nine-dash line” encircling almost all of the sea inside its borders. Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines all contest parts of that area, as does Taiwan, whose claims in the sea mirror China’s. And every government in the region takes an interest in the sea’s purported hydrocarbon riches. In 2013 the Philippines filed a case with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, asking the tribunal to reject China’s claim. The judges will announce their decision on July 12th.China has said it will ignore the PCA’s ruling, denying that the court has any jurisdiction over what it sees as an issue of sovereignty.America says it has a national interest in maintaining freedom of navigation in the sea, through which one-third of the world’s maritime trade passes.
  2. On July 10th, eight days after voting took place, Australia’s prime minister was at last able to claim victory for his conservative Liberal-National coalition. He did so after Bill Shorten, the Labor opposition leader, conceded that Mr Turnbull had won just enough seats for a second term.The Australian Electoral Commission says the government is leading in 76 seats, just enough for a majority, although it has not yet declared the result.Even if Mr Turnbull has scraped across the line in the lower house, bigger trouble may await him in the Senate.Mr Turnbull’s core campaign promise, to cut Australia’s company tax rate from 30% to 25% over the next decade, now seems doomed in the Senate. Labor, the Australian Greens and Mr Xenophon support tax cuts for small companies, but not big business.In his victory speech, Mr Turnbull highlighted the need for Australia to transition from an economy “fuelled up” by a mining boom, linked to Chinese demand, to one with more diverse growth sources. With annual GDP growth at 3.1% and the unemployment rate below 6%, Australia has so far managed this transition well.
  3. Upon sealing a seventh victory at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 9th, Ms Serena Williams collapsed to the turf, such was her joy at equalling Steffi Graf’s haul of 22 victories at grand-slam tournaments. Her win on Saturday means that she now shares the record for the most major singles titles in the “Open era”, which began in 1968 when professionals were first permitted to enter tennis’s four main events. Just one obstacle stands between her and general recognition as the greatest female player of all time: Margaret Court’s tally of 24 slams, which the Australian accumulated between 1960 and 1973.
  4. Andy Murray, who triumphed in the men’s singles the following day, has a more modest trophy collection. Britain’s top-ranked player beat Milos Raonic, a young Canadian with a howitzer of a serve, in straight sets on Sunday to claim his third major championship. Mr Murray has now won Wimbledon twice. This feat will immortalise him in the annals of British tennis, which had failed to produce a male grand-slam champion for 76 years before the feisty Scot won the US Open in 2012.Britain’s best player has had the misfortune to compete at the same time as three of the most talented men to ever pick up a racket: Mr Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have each won a dozen slams or more, a feat matched only by Pete Sampras.Coming into this tournament, he had played in ten finals, which is as many as Boris Becker. Yet Mr Becker, who won six majors, got to play championship matches against Kevin Curren, Michael Stich and Michael Chang. There are no easy finals, but those opponents were hardly on the level of Mr Federer or Mr Djokovic
  5. Murray’s overall record at grand slams suggests that he belongs in such illustrious company. At the age of 29, Mr Murray has entered 42 major tournaments, winning an average of 4.1 matches at each.By comparison, Mr Sampras won 3.96 matches per grand slam before his 30th birthday. Andre Agassi’s win rate was 3.69, while Mr McEnroe performed a shade better, with 4.12 victories per tournament.This statistic has limitations. First, it discriminates against players who had slow starts to their careers: Mr Federer needed 17 attempts to reach a semi-final before his decade of dominance, by which point Mr Borg had won six slams. Second, it says nothing about the strength of competition in a given era.Yet the 2016 Wimbledon tournament offered a rare glimpse of the career that Britain’s best tennis player might have had without three superstars in his path: Mr Nadal was ruled out by injury, while Mr Djokovic and Mr Federer were knocked out before the final day.

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