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As the US and China wrangle over trade, exchanging threats, accusations, punitive measures and retaliations, Gideon Rachman writes in this week’s column that there are two ways of interpreting their confrontation. The Trump administration says it wants to reset the relationship between the two superpowers. But the US may also want to block China’s rise.

“These two ways of thinking point to very different potential endings,” he writes. “The first approach — the reset — ultimately ends with a deal. The second approach — blocking the rise of China — points to a prolonged and deepening antagonism.”

There may well have been a shift in thinking in Washington towards the latter course of action, he warns, but even the hawks need to think about how this ends.

Amy Kazmin tells the story of public figures in India who fall foul of colonial-era laws used to stifle free speech on social media.

Robert Shrimsley argues that No-deal dreamers could force a Brexit rethink as ministers struggle to find a path through the UK’s political crisis.

John Thornhill ponders the threat of catastrophe unleashed by access to cheap but potentially destructive tech, and some possible remedies.

Emma Jacobs defines “toxic”, the latest in our Year in a Word series for 2018.

What you’ve been saying

Brunel would struggle to gauge Crossrail complexity: letter from John Tippler, Spalding, Lincolnshire, UK

Mark Peaker declares that Brunel could have designed Crossrail and completed it on time ( Letters, December 14). Brunel’s merits were great, but Crossrail is far more complex than any of his projects. And wasn’t it Brunel who persuaded the directors of the Great Western to let him build their railway as broad-gauge? Later, at huge cost, the whole thing had to be expensively converted to permit interworking with other parts of the network. I doubt the directors were very pleased at having to pay for that mistake.

In response to “ The eurozone risks sleepwalking into a downturn”, Danmalin says:

In other walks of life trying to hit an unattainable target and missing year after year might prompt a reassessment of that target, but not in the bubble surrounding monetary policy in the euro area. Real risk now the ECB has waited too long to tighten policy and will have to ease next year.

Ignoring ethical factors is a dereliction of duty: letter from James McManus, Nutmeg, London, UK

I read with interest the article regarding ESG groupthink ( December 13). In our opinion the growth of this segment is driven by an investment industry that has recognised that ignoring environmental, social and governance factors is ignoring the risks and opportunities from each of these areas, and is in fact a failure of fiduciary duty. This also means ensuring investments are suitable for clients’ goals, which is why high risk trusts, such as the one mentioned in the article, are so rarely appropriate for many. Concrete data and the transparency of outcomes are indeed issues in ESG investing, and we would encourage the industry to integrate, as we do, ESG data into client reporting for all portfolios.

Today’s opinion

Lex: Just Eat/Cat Rock Capital: pizza their mind
US hedge fund is right to challenge the food group’s change of direction

India’s social media satirists are cornered by colonial law
Free expression is protected, but empire-era restrictions are vulnerable to abuse

No-deal dreamers could force a Brexit rethink
Stories of immediate chaos distract attention from the long-term economic damage

Lex: Hoshizaki/Japanese governance: cube rout
Investors are cooling on ice-dispenser maker hit by accounting concerns

Lex: ABB/Cevian: steampunked
Ulrich Spiesshofer’s role at the helm of the industrials group remains uncertain

Markets Insight: Share prices can rise even after dreaded yield curve inversion
Central banks’ rate policies provide valuable clues for the outlook of assets

Inside Business: Unexpected victories for unorthodox shareholder activists
Trillions of dollars of municipal and union pension money is making its voice heard

The threat of catastrophes calls for radical tech regulation
Preventive policing is a risk worth taking against proliferating dangers

FT Alphaville: You know things are bad when Tether is in the crypto top 5

America, China and the art of confrontation
Beijing needs to grasp that there has been a profound bipartisan shift in US thinking

Lex: Tech IPOs: directional hypothesis
Selling shares straight to the public saves both money and time

Free Lunch: The UK now needs a government of national unity
A ‘grand coalition’ should govern until March 29 and then give way to new elections

Dear Jonathan: When applying for jobs, how do I sell my cultural differences in a positive way?
Your questions for our expert — and readers’ advice

Year in a Word: Toxic
In 2018, politics, society and the environment were suffused with poison

fastFT: Opening Quote: Asos sees retail woes move online

FT View

The FT View: The UK’s student funding is overdue radical reform
An accountancy change sheds light on a system lacking clear strategy

The FT View: America’s scrambled approach to Africa
Washington’s Hobbesian new strategy belongs to a bygone era

The Big Read

The Big Read: Best of the Big Read 2018
FT analysis on the big stories — Brexit, Trump, China and the Big Four auditors

The Big Read: Lex in-depth: SoftBank’s credibility problem
The group’s shares trade at a discount but an IPO of its mobile unit could change attitudes

Get alerts on US-China trade dispute when a new story is published

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