President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Sept. 21, 2018, Springfield, Missouri (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

I was hoping that Bob Woodward’s new book would help me understand the strategy behind President Donald Trump’s trade policy. But like much of the rest of Washington, I found the “revelations” in the book, in a sense, shocking but not surprising. On trade policy, it largely confirmed what we already knew—the president just doesn’t like trade and will not listen to anything that contradicts his long-held views. Beyond the broad distrust of trade and trade agreements, specific policy decisions were disturbingly random, often depending on nothing more than who had last managed to catch the president’s ear. So, the […]

Afghan security personnel walk past the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 23, 2018 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss the latest escalation in the U.S.-China trade war and new developments in North Korean nuclear diplomacy. For the Report, Michael Semple talks with WPR’s senior editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, about the Taliban’s resurgence in Afghanistan and life on the ground in territories under their control. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your inbox. The newsletter offers a free preview article […]

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, poses with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a group photo session at the G-20 summit in Hangzhou, China, Sept. 4, 2016 (AP photo by Ng Han Guan).

Last week, at a meeting on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in the Pacific port of Vladivostok, in far eastern Russia, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to improve their long-strained bilateral relationship. It was their seventh meeting since late 2012, though each one has been on the sidelines of international gatherings, rather than full-fledged bilateral visits. The reason is that, up until recently, China has been hesitant to court Japan and restore traditional high-level exchanges through state visits, especially since their relations fell off a cliff seven years ago due to tensions […]

A jockey truck passes a stack of 40-foot China Shipping containers at the Port of Savannah in Savannah, Georgia, July, 5, 2018 (AP photo by 	Stephen B. Morton).

President Donald Trump’s trade war with China escalated Tuesday, when he slapped tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. Beijing retaliated immediately with tariffs on an additional $60 billion worth of imports from the U.S. The move followed a similar round of tit-for-tat tariffs in July, when both sides targeted $50 billion worth of each other’s exports. Trump famously declared on Twitter in March that trade wars are “good, and easy to win.” His optimism in the standoff with Beijing stems in part from the current strength of the U.S. economy, the more-troubling recent economic indicators for […]

Chinese Bishop Joseph Li Shan, center, walks down the aisle during a mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, a government-sanctioned Catholic church in Beijing, March 31, 2018 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR’s newsletter and engagement editor, Benjamin Wilhelm, curates the top news and analysis from China written by the experts who follow it. A report that China is nearing an agreement with the Vatican on Catholic bishop appointments has raised eyebrows given the Communist Party’s ongoing crackdown on religion. The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that momentum is building for an agreement between China and the Vatican that would see Beijing recognize the pope’s authority over the Catholic Church in China. In return, Pope Francis would recognize seven excommunicated Chinese bishops who were appointed by the […]

Marshall Miller, president of Miller and Company, speaks during a Commerce Department hearing on whether auto imports threaten national security, Washington, July 19, 2018 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

Despite hopes that the negotiations to salvage the North American Free Trade Agreement will conclude with some degree of success, the other fronts in U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade wars continue to escalate. The looming tariffs on another $200 billion in U.S. imports from China will carry high costs for American consumers and exporters, much higher than the first round of tit-for-tat tariffs on $50 billion in trade with China this summer. Yet it is the political and institutional implications of potential tariffs on $200 billion in automobile imports later this year that raise even bigger questions. For many consumers, […]

British Prime Minister Theresa May looks up as an aircraft flies past during a visit to the Airbus area at the Farnborough Airshow, Farnborough, England, July 16, 2018 (AP photo by Matt Dunham).

More than two years after narrowly approving a referendum to leave the European Union, the British are discovering that asserting national sovereignty is less straightforward than the proponents of Brexit promised. Leaders of the “Leave” campaign in 2016 painted the issue in black and white. Britain had subordinated its sovereignty to Brussels, not least its authority to control its own borders. A fully independent Britain would regain those rights, while also negotiating a favorable, bespoke trade agreement with the EU’s remaining 27 members. With only seven months left before the deadline to leave the EU, it is clear that this […]

Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016 (AP photo by Allauddin Khan).

The Afghan Taliban are experiencing a revival. Today, they find themselves in control of much of the territory they claimed before 9/11, a new version of the Islamic Emirate that the U.S. intended to eliminate. Instead of focusing on public statements, policymakers trying to assess the Taliban’s motives must closely examine what life in Taliban-controlled territory looks like. In 1992, after groups of guerrilla fighters known as mujahideen succeeded in toppling Afghanistan’s communist government, which had been backed by the Soviet Union, they quickly turned on each other, kicking off a civil war. In response, a group of young clerics […]

Jack Ma, the founder and chairman of Alibaba, leaves a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand, April 19, 2018 (AP photo by Sakchai Lalit).

Editor’s note: Every Wednesday, WPR’s newsletter and engagement editor, Benjamin Wilhelm, curates the top news and analysis from China written by the experts who follow it. Chinese internet and e-commerce goliath Alibaba announced on Monday that Jack Ma, its founder and chairman of the board, will step down next September. Ma, who was an English teacher when he launched Alibaba with 17 of his students and friends, has become one of China’s most famous entrepreneurs and its richest. Ma’s replacement will be Daniel Zhang, who became CEO in 2013 as part of what Ma said was a long-planned succession. Zhang’s […]

Pro-Brexit demonstrators face anti-Brexit demonstrators outside the gates of Downing Street, London, Sept. 5, 2018 (Photo by Alberto Pezzali for Sipa via AP Images).

A little more than two years since a bare majority of British voters opted to leave the European Union, and just over six months before it happens, negotiators are still trying to determine what the post-Brexit relationship will look like. As of March 29, 2019, the United Kingdom will no longer be part of the EU and, while the parties have agreed on a 21-month transition period, time is running out. The U.K. needs to find a way to maintain free trade in goods and services with what is by far its largest trading partner, in order to avoid large […]

A Long March 2D rocket carrying the Venezuelan remote sensing satellite VRSS-1 lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center near Jiuquan, China, Sept. 29, 2012 (Photo by Sun Zifa for Imaginechina via AP Images).

MEDELLIN, Colombia—China has quickly established an extensive track record of using infrastructure spending, on everything from stadiums to ports, to secure resources and bolster trade across Eurasia, Africa and Latin America. Security and space industry analysts now say 2018 has already been a banner year for another part of China’s soft power outreach, as it has sold satellites and support systems to Nigeria, Cambodia and Pakistan. China’s space ambitions are closely tied to its Belt and Road Initiative. By the end of the year, it is expected that a basic system of 18 Chinese BeiDou-3 global positioning satellites will serve […]

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman head to a meeting, New Delhi, India, Sept. 6, 2018 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

What a difference a year makes. Last October, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered a major policy speech on U.S.-India ties and the critical role India would play in the Trump administration’s new Indo-Pacific strategy. A month later in Vietnam, at the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, President Donald Trump championed India’s role in the region—even though it’s not a member of APEC—signaling that he was serious about accelerating strategic cooperation with India. But now, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis in New Delhi this week for high-level talks with their Indian […]

Toshihiro Nikai, left, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, greets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Aug. 31, 2018 (AP photo by Roman Pilipey).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR’s newsletter and engagement editor, Benjamin Wilhelm, curates the top news and analysis from China written by the experts who follow it. Signs of improved ties between China and Japan have rekindled hopes of swift progress toward establishing the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, which would be the world’s largest free trade deal if it ever comes to fruition. China initially unveiled the agreement as a rival to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from after taking office. Japan led the efforts to salvage and revise the TPP without the […]

Foreign ministers of El Salvador and China, Carlos Castaneda and Wang Yi, celebrate a toast at a signing ceremony to mark the establishment of diplomatic relations between El Salvador and China, Beijing, Aug. 21, 2018 (AP photo by Mark Schiefelbein).

El Salvador’s decision last month to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and establish relations with China came as a blow to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, who condemned Beijing for “increasingly out-of-control international behavior.” The move also prompted a harsh response from the United States, as the White House expressed “grave concern” and accused China of “political interference in the Western Hemisphere.” However, according to R. Evan Ellis, a research professor of Latin American studies at the U.S. Army War College, both Washington and Taipei may be powerless to prevent more countries from following suit. In an email interview, he explains […]

President Donald Trump talks on the phone with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, Aug. 27, 2018 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

To ancient Greeks, the dog days of summer came when the star Sirius, known as the dog star, was positioned prominently above the horizon just before sunrise. The star was linked with disaster, even war, at the height of a hot summer. Its meaning evolved over the centuries as it was translated from ancient Greek to Latin and, eventually, English. In Washington this summer, U.S. trade policy has suffered through its own version of the dog days. There was the lethargy associated with trying to resolve the trade war with China. There was the sudden storm of President Donald Trump […]