Morning Briefing

The Physics of Syria’s Black Hole

Syrian President Bashir al-Assad has declared Aleppo to be “liberated.’’ And the West – which couldn’t agree to negotiate with him or to fight him militarily – is unified in its outrage. But the physics of this sad state of human affairs should surprise no one: Every action (or non-action) produces an equal and opposite reaction. Our indecision becomes his liberation. His victory becomes our next wave of refugees.

Not only our cars, but the world economy appears to possess shock absorbers, airbags and anti-lock brake systems. At least that’s according to experts who tell us global GDP will grow by 3.6 percent in 2017, faster than it did this year. The same will hold true for Germany. Soon, 44 million people in our country will find themselves in meaningful employment. Let’s hope the experts are right. After a year of bad political prognostications, they owe us a good call.

The Handelsblatt jury has met and nominated the Most Important People of 2016: The Hopefuls, the Election Winners and the Losers. Prominent writers explain in telling prose why the winners won and the losers lost. Here’s a preview:

Former Deutsche Telekom personnel chief Thomas Sattelberger on VW supervisory board chairman Hans Dieter Pötsch: “The gentlemen at Volkswagen have to this day failed to grasp the moral dimensions of the Dieselgate crisis. Because Pötsch and many others on VW’s supervisory board are part of the old guard, the firm needs to make a clean start to put the massive fraud behind it. Mr. Pötsch, step down!”

The vice chair of investment banking at J.P. Morgan Europe, Dorothee Blessing, on internet entrepreneur Ralph Dommermuth, founder of “We together,’’ an employer initiative to help refugees enter the workforce. “We find ourselves at the moment in troubled times; and it is exactly in periods like these that it’s important for people like Ralph Dommermuth to step forward with courage and leadership. Congratulations!’’

Former Chancellory Minister Bodo Hombach on Christian Lindner, the head of Germany’s Free Democrat Party: “He’s managed to resuscitate a party that many had written off for dead. He looks for solutions, where others see only problems. If he can deliver the central promises of economic liberalism – free enterprise and civil rights – he will become one of our leaders of tomorrow.’’

And Baumann? In his interview in Handelsblatt, he spoke about much more than Bayer’s mega-deal. Baumann understands the growing criticism of globalization: “In the middle class, there are ‘globalization losers,’ both real and perceived. They are unhappy with their status quo, uncertain and increasingly overwhelmed by the risks confronting them. From our political leaders, they are hearing very few answers.’’ Whoever can speak that cogently has done a lot of good listening. Bauman knows chemistry, but apparently he also knows people and how to lead them.

Alexander Dibelius, former CEO of Goldman Sachs Germany and M&A expert, on Bayer CEO Werner Baumann, our 2016 Deal-Maker of the Year: “With the Monsanto takeover, Baumann joins the ranks of some of the biggest dealmakers in world history. His $66 billion fusion is a gamble, no question. But it’s one he’s so convinced of, that he’s pursued it without regard to how history will ultimately judge him. For that, I tip my hat to him.’’

And our Person of the Year? This time, it’s a trio. 2016 was and still is the Year of the Autocrats, therefore Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan are gracing our weekend cover. They aren’t our favorites, but for the moment, they are our future. Let’s hope they don’t do as much damage as we fear and prove the doomsayers wrong. Or as German poet and author Hans Magnus Enzensberger reminds us: “New errors are dearer to me than all of the old certainties.’’

But anxiety be damned. Handelsblatt’s editorial team cut loose last night and partied like there was no tomorrow. For our annual correspondents’ meeting, we rented the boat “Ocean Diva’’ and whiled away the evening up and down the Rhine River with 250 journalists and Dieter von Holtzbrinck, the owner of Handelsblatt Publishing Co. DJ Theo provided some good driving dance tunes, and 17 “Oscars’’ were handed out to members of our talented team. Although we usually channel the father of Germany’s post-war “economic miracle,’’ Ludwig Erhard, this time our muse was Vladimir Lenin: “Those who work hard should party hard.’’

 

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