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If the 20th century belonged to the United States, the 21st is China’s. As the US turns inward, China is taking a great technological leap forward. Europe, therefore, should start looking east. At least, that’s the conventional geopolitical wisdom.

But, argues Philip Stephens in his column this week, the conventional wisdom might just be wrong. Europeans acquiesce too easily to Chinese criticisms of the weakness of liberal democracy and of the inability of the developed economies to grow consistently. 

History doesn’t travel in straight lines, Philip writes. And there is no reason to assume that China will keep bucking the economic cycle or that Europe’s problems are intractable. With its recovery looking durable and a new appetite for co-operation in Paris and Berlin, “Europe no longer feels like a continent flat on its back”.

The relationship between China and Europe will certainly be crucial in the next few decades, Philip concludes, but Europeans still have a choice. As China looks to expand its sway over the “axial supercontinent” of Eurasia, Europe can be a supplicant, a partner or a roadblock. Whether it chooses co-operation or obstruction, Europe “should feel no obligation to bow to Beijing”.

Reality check— Britain has been mugged by reality on Brexit, argues Martin Wolf. The UK’s acceptance of most of the EU’s divorce terms was welcome — and predictable. But some illusions persist, especially on trade, and these will have to be shed sooner or later.

Fighting Alzheimer’s— Of the top 10 causes of death, Alzheimer’s is the most stubbornly resistant to treatment. But, writes Bill Gates, progress in the fight against the disease is possible if we harness the power of big data and allow researchers around the world to share their results.

Unsocial media— Robert Shrimsley considers the case of Keaton Jones, the American boy who won the hearts of social media users around the world when a video of him tearfully recounting being bullied at school went viral. But Keaton’s bath in the glow of online sympathy was shortlived. After revelations about his parents, “a distressed victim of bullying was now being live bullied on a global scale”. Whatever the sins of his mother and father, Robert writes, the child is still a victim.

Best of the rest

The age of volatility — James Forsyth in the Spectator

Trump’s lies vs Obama’s — David Leonhardt in The New York Times

The 21st century will not be American — Pascal Bruckner in Le Monde (in French)

Congress must act on the “dreamers” — Tim Cook and Charles Koch in The Washington Post

What you’ve been saying

Skating on thin ice in Aden — letter from Julian Tunnicliffe, Royston, Herts, UK

“Sir, Michael Skapinker’s review (December 11) of Languages After Brexit mentions the over-use of figurative phrases by native English speakers. In 1948 my father was serving in the RAF in Aden and acting as an Arabic interpreter. Some local tribesmen had been causing trouble, so they were rounded up to be warned about their behaviour. His commanding officer ordered him to speak to them in the following terms: ’Tell them that they are skating on thin ice and that they need to pull their socks up or I will be down on them like a ton of bricks.’”

Comment by The Beagle on Anjana Ahuja’s latest column, Seek new experiences, not facts, if you want to learn

“Professional investors mostly focus on formal research with a narrow focus and short timescale. The minority of professional investors who skim the research but mainly avert their gaze to the horizon and other sources of information are the ones who beat the market. There is ample evidence, in the investment world, that Anjana is on to something here!”

Should we be worried? — letter from Gregory Shenkman in London, UK

“Sir, When Janan Ganesh and Gideon Rachman both write soothing articles about government Brexit policy on the same day (December 12), it brings Virgil to the front of any thinking Brexiter’s mind: Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. The government must have committed some tactical error.”

Today’s opinion

Britain has more illusions to shed on Brexit Agreeing a final deal will be complex and probably take years

Free Lunch: Fiscal union v banking union Two views of the euro battle it out

Keaton Jones: a bullied boy and a Christmas tale that wasn’t Social media has turned on the American 11-year-old from Tennessee

David Allen Green’s blog: Brexit: the night parliament took back control

Bill Gates: We must share data to fight Alzheimer’s Combining information will help researchers find new treatments, the Microsoft founder says

Opinion today: In Bitcoin’s shadow The cryptocurrency is building up a challenge to traditional banking

Why Europe need not kowtow to China With a modicum of confidence, EU nations can set the terms of the relationship

EM Squared: China’s bond market poised for flood of foreign capital Inclusion in global indices could unleash nearly $800bn of inflows by 2025

FT View

FT View: MPs take back control to signal a smoother Brexit May will need to listen to parliament’s views on future trade talks

FT View: Big media deals cannot ensure a Disney ending Rupert Murdoch sells while prices and uncertainty are both high

The Big Read

The Big Read: Brexit: Inside the UK’s messy deal to secure an amicable divorce As the talks neared conclusion, mishaps over an agreement for Northern Ireland almost brought Theresa May’s government crashing down

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