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What are the prospects of a stand-off between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping this year? And, if it came to it, who would be likely to blink first, the loose-cannon US president or his Chinese counterpart, bristling with ambitions for his nation’s enhanced global role?

For Edward Luce, the two leaders are well matched in terms of ego. In this week’s column, he traces the story of their relations so far, and argues there has been a decided change in the atmosphere between Washington and Beijing. A bust up looms.

Once Chinese leaders showed restraint — earning them a place among the “axis of adults” that would curb Mr Trump’s worst instincts. Now, however, forbearance has given way to Mr Xi’s assertive desire for direct competition with the US. As the potential for misunderstandings grows, Ed argues that the fog has spread beyond the Korean peninsula to envelop other areas of international relations. It all bodes ill for 2018.

What boards should do next: Philip Augar argues that it took the financial crisis of 2008 to expose the flaws in shareholder value. But how will the corporate and institutional elite react? He applauds suggestions for better consultation with stakeholders — even if Milton Friedman would be appalled.

China rewards a non-violent activist with what he most wants: Jamil Anderlini writes that the harsh sentence handed down to Wu Gan is typical for Christmas break crackdowns on dissent, but has ended up making the state look weak and “scared of shadows”.

Grumbling UK commuters can see light at the end of the tunnel: Sebastian Payne argues that the British rail network is healthy and that fare rises causing rage this week should be more explicitly links to investment and improvements.

Best of the rest

Trump is right to tell Iran the world is watching — David Ignatius in The Washington Post

I knew that many people don’t vote. I should have asked why — Rafael Behr in the The Guardian

Money is too important to be left to the central bankers or the ‘technofreaks’ — Ivar Ekeland and Jean-Charles Rochet in Le Monde

How Germany’s refugee dream soured — Kenneth R Rosen in The New Statesman

What you’ve been saying

Rev Jesse Jackson nailed the problem— from Cynthia Miyashita, San Francisco, CA, US

“At a rally in the late 1980s, the Rev Jesse Jackson asked how many in the audience owned a VCR (electronics was a significant contributor to the US trade deficit with Japan at the time). Almost all raised their hands. He asked how many owned a ballistic missile. No one raised his hand. He said: ‘That’s our problem. We make things that people don’t want.’”

Comment by Joerg Washington on Martin Wolf’s new column, The new world disorder and the fracturing of the west

“Feels like 1914. A global democratic peacekeeper in relative decline (UK => US). A new, autocratic superpower rises unchecked (Germany => China). A decaying autocratic empire plays cloak-and-dagger in its former colonies (Ottoman => Russian). Nihilist terrorism: check. Entangling alliances: check. And the ruling generation has no direct memory that war is hell. Just light match.”

Please read Shakespeare (trust one who knows) — from Prof B C K Patel, University of Utah, US

“Since many of the words in medicine are derived from Latin or Greek (or both!), it was normal in my medical school days and thereafter for us to have discussions of the derivatives of such words. Alas, I have been unable to have any such discussions for the last decade or more, as none of my junior doctors seem to have any knowledge of (or interest in) Latin (or Greek), even in its most rudimentary form. This I have accepted with resignation, especially as a fellow professor of plastic surgery used to tell junior doctors that he had no time for dead languages (Latin, Sanskrit, etc) or dead “commie composers” (Beethoven, Bach, etc). However, I recently realised that this was just the thin edge of the wedge. We often discuss music, literature, travel, food, languages and so on while operating. The subject of Shakespeare came up not so long ago: one of my junior doctors had not only never read any of his works, but was unaware of who he was. “I think he was a writer” was hopeful, but “around about 1960” less so. I thought I had heard it all until then. Well, I mean to say. Even if you don’t learn Latin, please read Shakespeare. Experto crede.”

Today’s opinion

Grumbling UK commuters can see light at the end of the tunnel Britain’s rail system is far from perfect but it is better than it was

Military bands trumpet the might and status of their nation Spending cuts to non-essential armed services undermine international standing

Trump’s looming bust-up with China is bad news for 2018 Competing global ambitions and a clash of egos with Xi Jinping points to a stand-off

China rewards a non-violent activist with what he most wants Wu Gan’s sentence legitimises him as a warrior for liberty in the face of a dictatorship

FT View

FT View: China’s protectionism comes home to roost The US block of the Ant/MoneyGram deal is part of a larger backlash

FT View: Mifid II can succeed if it encourages competition Financial rules that create oligopolies serve customers poorly

The Big Read

The Big Read: Japan Inc: a corporate culture on trial after scandals Public admissions by some of the country’s greatest companies reveal deeper problems in how they are run

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