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Forty years of mutual understanding between the US and China over globalisation came to an abrupt end last week. America’s lurch towards protectionism and China’s swing towards one-man rule dealt a double blow to settled assumptions about Washington’s commitment to free trade, on one hand, and Beijing’s journey towards political liberalisation, on the other.
President Donald Trump declared that “trade wars are good and easy to win”. But, notes Gideon Rachman in his latest column, that remark showed a breezy, and potentially fatal, indifference to the dangers of unleashing a trade war with the Chinese.
Mr Trump and his opposite number Xi Jinping are both nationalists, ready to stoke patriotic grievances among their respective domestic audiences. The combination, Gideon suggests, could be explosive.
Taming capitalism: For some time now, the fortunes of social democratic parties in Europe have been in the doldrums. Even the centre-left in the Scandinavian countries, where the social contract has always seemed most secure, have felt the breath of populist insurgents on their necks. Mette Frederiksen, leader of Denmark’s Social Democrats, argues that the rise of populism is rooted in a genuine sense of insecurity. If social democracy is to fulfill its historic mission of taming capitalism, it must acknowledge that.
Biased bots: Everyone seems to be worrying about robots taking our jobs. But, writes Kriti Sharma, artificial intelligence poses a more pressing danger: bias — particularly where gender and ethnic stereotyping are concerned. The culture of AI research breeds homogeneity, Kriti argues, and that’s a serious problem. But it’s one that those working in technology can solve, while there’s still time.
Setting standards: UK regulators have done much since the collapse of Northern Rock 10 years ago to ensure that bank failures on that scale won’t happen again. But, argues Brendan Barber, the Libor rate-rigging scandal showed that regulation by itself is not enough. Bankers need to do more themselves to ensure that their industry meets the highest professional standards.
Best of the rest
Donald Trump and the stress test of liberal democracy — David Remnick in The New Yorker
YouTube, the great radicalizer — Zeynep Tufekci in The New York Times
The rebuilding of the Parti Socialiste is already going wrong — Michel Noblecourt in Le Monde (in French)
Missing the forest for the Xi — Jim O’Neill for Project Syndicate
The web can be weaponised, and we can’t count on big tech to stop it — Tim Berners-Lee in The Guardian
What you’ve been saying
Most of the problems facing the UK have nothing to do with Brexit — letter from Nicholas Wigdahl
Most of the problems facing the UK have nothing to do with Brexit — educational inequality, failing utility markets, poor infrastructure, low productivity, a non-functioning housing market. Fixing these with an economy weakened by being outside Europe will be even more difficult. The bet, however, that many people are innately taking is that only by delivering a huge shock to the establishment will anything be done about these problems. The challenge for the world of the FT is what answers can be given without resorting to the nationalisation favoured by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Producing more articles on why Brexit is not a good idea will not work, as the message it sends out is: “Let us keep to the system that has produced the inequality we are witnessing today.”
Comment from WendellMurray on Donald Trump’s diplomatic turn to N Korea deserves acclaim
I have never understood the refusal of the USA government to talk to the North Korean government. Likewise I do not understand why South Korean governments kow-tow to the USA government with regard to discussions with the North Korean government. Mr Trump is the last USA official who should be in discussions with North Koreans, but that is the situation that the USA finds itself in, so the world will see if anything positive materialises.
Alternatives are out there — letter from Tony Parrack
I fail to understand why people use Google other than through laziness or ignorance — there are many search engines that do not follow your browser searches/IP address and so on as part of their USP, and also thus do not annoy you with targeted ads. I use the delightfully named DuckDuckGo.
Instant Insight: The value of university degrees will be hard to measure
Prospective students can only make informed decisions with more easily available data
How to save Europe’s centre left
To defeat the populists, social democrats must heed voters’ sense of insecurity
Free Lunch: US economy is still far from fully recovered
Policymakers still have not managed to bring the country back to full employment
Robots that replicate human bias are enemies to diversity
Those working on the technology have a fleeting opportunity to create an inclusive future
America v China: How trade wars become real wars
The world’s two largest economies are sliding towards confrontation
Italy’s Five Star can be a force for renewal across the EU
Our programme for government gives the lie to the movement’s image as populist
Bankers need higher professional standards to regain trust
We must create a culture that honours obligations to customers and values diversity
Who dares wins
How can companies manage the uncertainties of the energy transition?
Quirky by Melissa Schilling — a mix of management theory and biography
A romp through the foibles and genius of eight innovators who changed the world
Reasons to be cheerful about the US tax cuts
Package widely criticised but research suggests supply-side benefits for economy
FT View: Breaking the dilemma on global corporation tax
In the long run, a destination-based system looks like the best option
FT View: Rebranding goes awry for France’s far right
It would be a mistake to write off Marine Le Pen
The Big Read
The Big Read: Poland — The damage done by Nazi crimes law
Warsaw has provoked outrage with a law against attributing Nazi crimes to the Polish nation or state, raising fears among the country’s Jewish community