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The strongest political force of our era, nationalism has brought about profound changes since the middle of the 20th century — both in the west, culminating in the rise of Donald Trump’s brand of populism, and in the east, which has seen the creation of a Chinese nation state.

Nationalism has been an engine of both development and destruction, argues Martin Wolf. He cites the welfare state and democracy as examples of the former. But, he warns, we are now witnessing an upsurge of its most malign forms. Human beings are easily persuaded by the idea of belonging to an imagined community, Martin explains, but they are less willing to share that membership freely with outsiders. Thus, xenophobia is employed as a path to power, as we see in political movements around the world today.

Tony Barber observes that French president Emmanuel Macron’s European ambitions have been hobbled by recent troubles at home. They damage his credibility as a crusader for European renewal.

Brooke Masters recommends that, in the wake of a string of auditing scandals in the UK, it is time to explore fresh approaches to how the big accountancy firms should be regulated.

Courtney Weaver bids farewell to one of Washington’s latter-day bipartisan bromances: between retiring Republican senator Jeff Flake and his Democrat colleague Chris Coons.

James Blitz defines the ever-elusive term “backstop”, the latest in our Year in a Word series for 2018.

What you’ve been saying

Suggested rebrand has painful connotations: letter from Algernon Bennett, London, UK

I read with interest the Lex column of a potential tie-up between Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank ( December 14). However I am not entirely sure if “Deutschmerz”, the name of the merged entity suggested by Lex, would make it past the re-brand consultants. The Teutonophiles among your readership would recognise that “Schmerz” loosely translates into English as “pain”. Probably not a good reminder of what shareholders have endured for some time. On the subject of connotation, I imagine that “CoDak”, would also be rejected.

In response to America, China and the art of confrontation, Francois P says:

If the US wants to hold back China, one of the best ways to do so is to impose tariffs on China which disadvantage China compared to other countries, especially other emerging markets. Over time, offshoring investments and production will avoid and/or leave China and head for more favoured countries. I tend to believe that the tariffs slapped on China aren’t a temporary tool to bring China to the negotiating table, but the prize that Trump really is after.

Co-operatives: an alternative model worth the FT’s consideration: letter from Stuart Newbold, Cambridge, UK

While I agree with Martin Wolf’s review of publications detailing the damaging and perverse incentives of the modern plc ( December 12). I do not entirely share his prescription of “better companies and more competition” as the solution. This indeed is part of the answer. But alas I also feel the Financial Times is as guilty as other business observers in neglecting to mention the co-operative as an alternative organisational model in a capitalist society. Co-operative businesses by definition have first and foremost a social purpose, from which profits then flow.

Today’s opinion

Farewell to a bipartisan bromance from an earlier Washington era
Senators Jeff Flake and Chris Coons have a star-crossed friendship in hostile political times

Lex: UK retailers/short sellers: what a carrion
It has been a good year for betting on falling share prices in the high street

The Faustian bargain of nationalism
We are witnessing an upsurge of the most malign forms of this powerful social force

Lex: European utilities: Grid block
Investors getting cold feet about UK electricity groups should look to continent

A different UK regulator that promises long-overdue changes to auditing
One report proposes a body funded by an industry levy that stands up for consumers

Lex: US equities: slay bells
December is usually a happy month for shares — but this year is proving very different

Lex: Bridgepoint: Cherry picking
Bid for Swedish online gambling group will leave rivals with a bitter taste

FT Alphaville: When interest rate forecasts don’t WIRP

Markets Insight: US shale juggernaut will stomp on Opec’s oil plans
Next year does not look like a time to be betting on the price getting much stronger

Emmanuel Macron’s European ambitions are hobbled by troubles at home
Divisions across the continent mean odds are stacked against the French president’s reforms

Think you know your wife? Try buying her a present
When it comes to gifts, I’m a hopeless husband

The best reader comments and contributions of 2018
Thank you for making us laugh, cry, roll our eyes and change our minds

The US must stop threatening the EU over tariffs
The bloc should not hold trade talks until US disregard for our values changes

Millennial Money: Ticket touts mean only robots and the rich can enjoy live music
Regulators need to book a front-row seat to protect gig goers

Year in a Word: Backstop
Blooming in bewildering variety, the Brexit block jargon often befuddled

FT Alphaville: Who wants to be crippled by student debt?

Markets Insight: A dovish hike by Fed will face a struggle to calm investor nerves
The tone that the Fed strikes on the US economic outlook will be closely watched

Five business lessons from 2018
Political issues have become too overwhelming for corporate leaders to ignore

Dear Jonathan: Help — my plan to change careers failed
Your questions for our expert — and readers’ advice

Lex: Auditors/competition: called to account
The wrecking ball may only have been stayed for now.

Lombard: Asos’s unflattering margins are a look investors have seen before
Shareholders can perhaps remember a rather similar trend from 2014

FT View

The FT View: Banks should recognise the risks of climate change
BoE governor Mark Carney is right to suggest adding global warming to stress tests

The FT View: Hungary rises in protest against Viktor Orban’s rule
‘Slavery law’ stirs new level of anger and even unity among usually disparate groups

The Big Read

The Big Read: Working but homeless: a tale from England’s housing crisis
By converting an old Quakers house, Habitat for Humanity is tackling homelessness in a wealthy town

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