Show an ad over header. AMP

The inside story on Trump's confrontation with Beijing

In his new book just released today, Washington Post foreign policy columnist Josh Rogin reveals the White House drama behind major Trump-era headlines on China.

Why it matters: At the beginning of the Trump administration, observers speculated that Trump's affinity for billionaires and dictators, and his lack of interest in human rights, could result in him selling out U.S. security and values for a deal with Beijing. That didn't happen — but Rogin shows how easily it could have.

Details: Rogin's book, "Chaos Under Heaven: Trump, Xi, and the Battle for the 21st Century," traces the trajectory of the Trump administration's policy toward China, which in the early months swung between accommodation and confrontation.

  • The book provides new insider details for some of the top headlines of the era, including Trump's phone call with the Taiwanese president, his short-lived push to have Guo Wengui deported to China, and a fateful February 2020 phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Between the lines: The account is based on extensive interviews with numerous former administration officials, especially former White House adviser Steve Bannon, deputy national security adviser Matt Pottinger and former National Security Council China director Matt Turpin.

The intrigue: Trump sometimes cast a wrench into the plans of his own officials who were hawkish on China, especially in the first two years of the administration, and he often mixed "national security and economic deal-making to Beijing's advantage," Rogin writes.

  • Taiwan: Though many of Trump's advisers were longtime Taiwan supporters, Trump himself was not. "Taiwan is like two feet from China," Trump told a U.S. senator, according to Rogin's account. "We are 8,000 miles away. If they invade, there isn't a f**king thing we can do about it."
  • Huawei: Though the U.S. national security community warned that the Chinese telecommunications company was a security threat, Trump repeatedly offered to include Huawei in trade talks.
  • Guo Wengui: China's leaders tried to convince Trump to deport the exiled Chinese tycoon, who was based in the U.S. where he became an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist Party, by sending casino magnate Steve Wynn to Trump with a dossier that presented Guo as a rapist. After Trump told Bannon "we've got to get the rapist," Pottinger ran over to the West Wing to convince Trump to relent.
  • COVID-19: In a Feb. 6, 2020, phone call, Xi told Trump that the coronavirus pandemic would fade away when warmer weather arrived — an incorrect assessment that Trump would soon repeat publicly.

The big picture: Leaders in both the U.S. and China made major tactical errors over the past four years.

  • The Trump administration mistreated allies and made "damaging unforced errors," Rogin writes. The result was that this "new era of naked competition with China is now seen by many as a spat between the United States and China, rather than an international response to China's actions as it rises."
  • China's leaders, for their part, "misinterpreted and misunderstood Trump and his administration egregiously and constantly from the start," repeatedly reaching "wrong conclusions both about Trump and about how his administration worked."

What to watch: The Biden administration is trying to repair some of Trump's "unforced errors" and convince the rest of the democratic world that China's growing superpower status isn't just a narrow U.S. concern.

Go deeper: Trump's U.S.-China transformation

"Nine minutes and 29 seconds": Prosecutors begin closing arguments in Chauvin trial

Steve Schleicher, an attorney for the prosecution in Derek Chauvin's trial, began closing arguments on Monday by describing in detail George Floyd's last moments — crying out for help and surrounded by strangers, as Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

Why it matters: The jury's verdict in Chauvin's murder trial, seen by advocates as one of the most crucial civil rights cases in decades, will reverberate across the country and have major implications in the fight for racial justice.

Keep reading... Show less

European soccer goes to war over wealthy clubs' plans for exclusive "Super League"

Europe's biggest soccer clubs have established The Super League, a new midweek tournament that would compete with — and threaten the very existence of — the Champions League.

Why it matters: This new league, set to start in 2023, "would bring about the most significant restructuring of elite European soccer since the 1950s, and could herald the largest transfer of wealth to a small set of teams in modern sports history," writes NYT's Tariq Panja.

Keep reading... Show less

81% of S&P 500 companies have reported a positive earnings surprise for Q1

First-quarter earnings so far have been very strong, outpacing even the rosy expectations from Wall Street and that's a trend that's expected to continue for all of 2021. S&P 500 companies are on pace for one of the best quarters of positive earnings surprises on record, according to FactSet.

Why it matters: The results show that not only has the earnings recession ended for U.S. companies, but firms are performing better than expected and the economy may be justifying all the hype.

Keep reading... Show less

NASA's Mars helicopter takes flight as first aircraft piloted on another planet

NASA successfully piloted the Ingenuity Mars helicopter for its first experimental flight on Monday, briefly hopping the aircraft as NASA's Perseverance rover collected data.

Why it matters: Ingenuity's short flight marks the first time a human-built aircraft has flown on a world other than Earth, opening the door to new means of exploring planets far from our own.

Keep reading... Show less

All U.S. adults now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine, meeting Biden's April 19 deadline

All 50 U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have now made U.S. adults over the age of 16 eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, meeting President Biden's April 19 deadline.

Why it matters: The landmark speaks to the increased pace of the national vaccination campaign, but will increase pressure on the federal government, states and pharmaceutical companies to provide adequate vaccine supply and logistics.

Keep reading... Show less

Minneapolis braces for a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial

Minneapolis is waking up to images of an occupied city on Monday, as the city and the world await a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.

What it's like: Residents running errands, picking up dinner and heading to the dog park in recent days encountered heavily-armed National Guard troops stationed throughout the city.

Keep reading... Show less

Russian authorities say jailed opposition leader Navalny has been transferred to hospital

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been hospitalized, one day after his doctor warned that the jailed Putin critic "could die at any moment," Russia's prison service said Monday.

Why it matters: News that Navalny's condition had severely deteriorated on the third week of a hunger strike prompted outrage from his supporters and international demands for Russia to provide him with immediate medical treatment.

Keep reading... Show less

The state worst hit by the pandemic

Data: Hamilton Place Strategies; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the job facing governments was to save lives and save jobs. Very few states did well on both measures, while New York, almost uniquely, did particularly badly on both.

Why it matters: The jury is still out on whether there was a trade-off between the dual imperatives; a new analysis from Hamilton Place Strategies shows no clear correlation between the two.

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories