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Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei likes to describe himself as a country bumpkin. But his ambitions for his tech firm are anything but modest, writes Kathrin Hille in a profile. The telecoms equipment maker has seen revenues rise from $1bn in the late 1990s to $100bn today, and he told staff in a January message, “We will definitely reach the peak of Everest! Our future is bright, however difficult our path may be.”

The company's meteoric rise has alarmed western security officials, who claim that Huawei has close ties to the Chinese military and may be helping it spy on the US. Now American authorities are coming after the group with a vengeance. Meng Wanzhou, Mr Ren’s daughter and Huawei’s chief financial officer, was detained in Vancouver pending a decision on extradition to the US, where she would face fraud charges for allegedly tricking western banks into violating US sanctions on Iran.

Sundar Katawala compares his early experiences as a non-white football fan with the current row over racist abuse directed at Chelsea player Raheem Sterling.

Margaret Heffernan concludes that the recent revelations that the Big Four accounting firms have let partners go show corporate calculations on sexual harassment have changed. Companies can no longer count on victims to remain silent about abuse

Tim Harford argues that politicians should stop sniping at central banks and set clear targets instead. Attacks on the Fed, BoE and RBI are a childish abdication of responsibility.

Sam Leith writes that we are all shaken, if not stirred, by James Bond’s alcohol intake: 007 is a fantasy — he does things that we may wish we could do safely, but cannot.

Camilla Cavendish observes that Theresa May should call the Brexit hardliners’ bluff. She must put country first and seek a vote on a second referendum or Norway Plus.

Best of the week

You’re fired! Trump’s search for a chief of staff— Henry Mance

Macron protests show that leading France is an impossible job — Gideon Rachman

We must rethink the purpose of the corporation— Martin Wolf

Index fund managers are too big for comfort — John Gapper

Why women who go to university are winning— Sarah O'Connor

Congo has a chance to move on from Kabila — David Pilling

In rural India, Modi’s good days may be over— Henny Sender

May’s retreat exposes a zombie premiership— Robert Shrimsley

Theresa May’s last path to an orderly Brexit — Philip Stephens

Huawei offers clues to the US-China trade war psyche— Jamil Anderlini

What you've been saying

UK’s top tax rate may be below the optimal level: letter from Paul Negrotti, Greenford, Middlesex, UK

Andy Thompson says “the UK’s top income tax rate . . . is already on the wrong side of the Laffer curve” (Letters, December 12). The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated the tax rate that maximises revenues in a UK context as being 42p in the pound. The Office for Budget Responsibility has similarly done so at 48p. The IMF has also postulated it at being 44p. If the median estimate is accurate (and I am not saying it is) the UK’s top rate may be just below it.

In response to “ This is where we are on Brexit”, Timpull says:

I think that legislation for a referendum that either put no deal vs remain to the public or no deal vs May deal would gain a majority in HoP. It would have democratic integrity because no one can claim the leave vote gave a mandate to crash out. I suspect the latter referendum question is more likely and could be completed in 3 months. The EU would definitely agree to extend for either.

Constitution’s moderating qualities are under threat: letter from Guy Wroble, Denver, CO, US

Janan Ganesh ( December 13) can be forgiven the enthusiasm with which he views the US constitution’s moderating qualities. But he would do well to bear in mind the views of the 11th Supreme Court chief justice, Charles Evans Hughes, who pronounced that “we are under a constitution, but the constitution is what the judges say it is . .”. Donald Trump has already appointed two justices to the nine-member Supreme Court, giving it a conservative majority. Two of the remaining liberal justices are 80 and 85 years old. The possibility that Mr Trump could appoint even more justices cannot be discounted. Nor can the effects that those justices would have in a potential 7-2 conservative/liberal split be minimised. The risk that Mr Trump has subjected the republic to may continue well beyond the life of his administration.

Today's opinion

FT Alphaville: It turns out “bond tokens” and “share tokens” might just be classed as securities

On Wall Street: Wall Street’s leveraged buyout profits are on thin ice
Stress points being felt in financial markets today could intensify as fees evaporate

Lex: Balfour Beatty: hod’s lore
Canny management has helped group avoid stumbles of its peers but hazards remain

Corporate calculations on sexual harassment have changed
Companies can no longer count on victims to remain silent about abuse

FT Alphaville: The bitcoin price is wrong

Lex: LVMH/Belmond: luxury break
French group’s latest shopping spree does not rule out further purchases

May must call the Brexit hardliners’ bluff
The PM should put country first and challenge Labour to back a second referendum

beyondbrics: China’s Belt and Road Initiative puts Paris climate commitments at risk
Chinese overseas investment has focused disproportionately on fossil fuels

Lex: Technological obsolescence: they think it’s all over
Predicting the death of old technologies is seldom simple — as the vinyl LP renaissance shows

Amazon is rewriting the rules for loyalty cards
Consumers want rewards and exclusivity and brands are scrambling to oblige

Lex: Japan Display/smartphones: crystal whipped
In desperate times investors will pounce on every bit of good news

FT Magazine: I’m not a teenager any more. It’s come as a shock
‘Some of us still go to Glastonbury — although, ahem, some of us don’t; have you seen that mud?’

When it comes to British humour, the joke is on us
Britons are quick to celebrate the national sense of humour — but is making a joke of everything really a trait to be celebrated?

Shaken, if not stirred, by James Bond’s alcohol intake
007 is a fantasy — he does things that we may wish we could do safely, but cannot

Free Lunch: On the possibility of progress
Paul Romer’s Nobel lecture shows ground for optimism even in biggest questions

The Top Line: How Elliott’s activists conquered Europe
From Pernod Ricard to AC Milan, the hedge fund has breached traditional defences

beyondbrics: US development agency should take a lead in Africa
Finance corporation has the chance to help launch a new cadre of middle-market PE funds

FT Alphaville: Governments can't prevent the next global economic slowdown

This is where we are on Brexit
What are the options for the UK from a law and policy perspective?

beyondbrics: Will the Sino-US trade war spread?
Fears of Chinese exports being diverted to third countries so far unrealised

FT Alphaville: The warm fuzzy feeling of Goldman debt

FTfm: Time to cover the new ‘Big Short’ on rising rates

Undercover Economist: Stop sniping at central banks and set clear targets instead
Political attacks on the Fed, BoE and RBI are a childish abdication of responsibility

Inside Business: Iceland’s orang-utan sends grim message on TV advertising
Brands are not lacking alternative ways to get their messages across

Inside London: Buyers of overpriced UK homes left in the lurch
People are effectively being forced to gamble on a resumption of house price inflation

City Insider: Auditors resolve to avoid hearing on Carillion anniversary
MPs have summoned the heads of the big firms to a hearing on January 15

Markets Insight: Japan’s new year faces a painful reckoning for markets
Two big new listings on indices will bring a reminder of the role passive money now plays

Lombard: Sports Direct’s Debenhams loan leaves some spitting feathers
Mike Ashley is beginning to look a lot like the turkey who voted for Christmas

Global Insight: How Trump laundered the US foreign policy elite’s reputation
Washington’s think tanks are united in their contempt for US president

Lex: Aflac/Japan Post: duck dynasty
Foreign investments does not always mean foreign exposure

German carmakers to usurp Trump’s trade ‘victory’
It is just one example of the consequences if America rips apart global supply chains

FT View

The FT View: Uber and Starbucks’ hot idea has a tepid future
Coffee delivery services aim to tap our indolence and impatience

The FT View: The slow ordeal of the American president
Main threat to Donald Trump is a gradual erosion of his authority

The Big Read

The Big Read: Brexit: the Conservatives and their thirty years’ war over Europe
The Tories’ delirium over the EU has destroyed three prime ministers and imperils the party

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