Listen to this article
This article is from today’s FT Opinion email. Sign up to receive a daily digest of the big issues straight to your inbox.
Since US president Donald Trump took office just over a year ago, the world has held its breath as he has appeared to flirt with the idea of junking, or at least fleeing, the global rules-based order that America built after the end of the second world war.
The coming year, writes Gideon Rachman in his latest column, will be a test of just how serious Mr Trump is about tearing up, inter alia, the international trading system and the North Atlantic alliance. But the president's often incendiary rhetoric notwithstanding, we should not assume, Gideon cautions, that profound and lasting change to the global order is on the cards.
There are four possibilities, he argues: (1) the US succeeds in securing changes to the existing set of international rules and with it maintains global hegemony; (2) a new system that excludes the US from multilateral agreements emerges; (3) US withdrawal from the rules-based order results in widespread chaos; (4) the US satisfies itself with merely cosmetic changes to the current dispensation.
The fact that, for all that Mr Trump has inveighed against the iniquities of the global system, nothing much has changed lends support, Gideon concludes, to the last of these possible outcomes. But even so, Mr Trump is playing a "high-risk game".
Gene geniuses: The announcement last week by scientists in China that they had cloned a pair macaque monkeys not only raises profound ethical questions, writes Anjana Ahuja. It is also a reminder that the Chinese are winning the global arms races in biotechnology. The country is spending huge sums of money in order to become a “research superpower” — and it is working.
Definitely May-be: There several sound reasons to remove Theresa May as Britain’s prime minister, argues Janan Ganesh. But Conservative MPs are deluding themselves if they think defenestrating the premier will make any difference to the Brexit negotiations with the EU. On the contrary, the choice facing Britain has always been the same: either the “Norwegian” model of “substantial enmeshment” with the bloc or the “Canadian” model of external trade with it. Changing the occupant of Number 10 Downing Street will do nothing to shift the balance of power in the Brexit talks — this favours the EU, and always has.
The sorrows of Young Strauss: A debut novel by the young writer Simon Strauss has caused a cultural and political convulsion in Germany, writes Frederick Studemann. Strauss’ mix of Romantic aestheticism with a rightwing world view has been seen by many as a breach of civic decorum, if not something altogether darker. But the prospect of yet another “grand coalition” between Angela Merkel's CDU and the Social Democrats leaves a large space which new conservative voices are clamouring to fill.
The best of the rest
To commemorate is not to celebrate — Jean-Noel Jeanneney and Pascal Ory in Le Monde (in French)
The Carillion pension bungle raises this question: where was the oversight? — Simon Jenkins in The Guardian
What Macron's loan of the Bayeux Tapestry really means for Britain — Sam Knight in the New Yorker
The toxic corporation — animal tests at Volkswagen — Kristina Läsker in Der Spiegel (in German)
Social media want you to buy followers — Leonid Bershidsky for Bloomberg View
What you've been saying
Brexit is our wig— letter from Geoff Scargill
In Evelyn Waugh’s novel ‘Decline and Fall’ Mr Prendergast, a schoolmaster in a minor public school in Wales, wears a wig. All the boys know it is a wig. “I knew from the start that it was a mistake but once they had seen it, it was too late to go back. They make all sorts of jokes about it.” Brexit is our wig. After months of talks and posturing about independence we can see that we are thin on top. Everyone abroad knows it and is making jokes about us. But it is too late to go back.
Comment by Risk Manager on Italy's political threat to the EU and to investors
At every EU 27 election in this electoral round, of which this Italian election is I think the last, we see the same pattern. Rising populism, rising xenophobia and rising Euroscepticism. And against a backdrop of a modest economic recovery (or boom in Germany). How will Schultz and Macron deliver Euro reform if Italians are busting fiscal rules? Maybe the EU will survive this electoral round, but what about the next one? The pattern and trend is quite clear. That starts in 2022, at which time the UK will have been out of the EU and transition period for a year and will have had a centrist Tory govt for the last 5 years.
Trump’s tariffs are in fact imposing a tax— letter from Robert Porath
In the face of his promise for federal tax cuts, President Donald Trump has imposed a big one with his tariffs on foreign solar components. For American solar industries, these components are the essential raw materials upon which their success is based. There is little chance that these can be produced as economically here, and the added cost will fall directly upon the public. Worldwide, solar energy is a hope for a safer, healthier future for everyone. Curtailing that hope is a misbegotten thought.
Ditching Theresa May will fail to alter the course of Brexit The structural realities of the exit talks weigh more than the individuals who conduct them
In the 4G patent wars everybody loses A ‘peace plan’ can provide greater transparency and collective licensing
Lombard: Carillion pension crisis shows problem is powers, not payouts Trustees say contractor refused funding requests because of cash flow ‘constraints’
Global Insight: Poland’s government is exploiting nationalist grievances A parliamentary bill on Nazi war crimes has angered Israel
America rejects the world it made Trump demands change but turning against rules-based order is potentially dangerous
Free Lunch: America first, America left behind Trump’s globalist turn carries a whiff of desperation
Fifty Million Rising by Saadia Zahidi Muslim women are gaining economic independence and control
What Venezuela’s chaos means for the oil market The effects of the country’s collapse have begun to hit its core business
FT View: A vacuum in the UK cabinet puts Brexit transition at risk Prevarication by the UK prime minister will only make matters worse
FT View: Alexei Navalny’s boycott could mar Vladimir Putin’s poll victory The real contest in March is between the Russian leader and apathy
The Big Read
The Big Read: Rail: frustration grows with Britain’s fragmented network Privatisation was meant to deliver competition, innovation and improved service, but has it delivered?