U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is shown on a screen addressing the 2020 Republican National Convention in the Rose Garden of the White House, Washington, Aug. 25, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Is Mike Pompeo the Teflon Don reincarnated? If you watched the U.S. secretary of state’s pre-recorded speech to the Republican National Convention on Tuesday, you’ll know your answer doesn’t matter, because Pompeo doesn’t really care about what you, many Americans or the world thinks. Pompeo delivered his address from Jerusalem while on an official diplomatic trip to the Middle East, breaking decades of political norms, and likely federal ethics laws. In this new era of American gangster diplomacy, what matters is always being right—as Pompeo sees it—and always being unapologetic in strong-arming the world into accepting the Republican Party’s isolationist […]

A staff member works on a mobile phone production line at a Huawei factory in Dongguan, China, March 6, 2019 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Guest contributor Lavender Au wrote the lead story in China Note this week. When the U.S. tightened restrictions on Huawei’s access to semiconductor chips last week, the Trump administration’s goal became clear, if it wasn’t already: kneecap the Chinese telecom giant’s technological advancement. Under a previous round of U.S. trade restrictions in May, Huawei was blocked from using American technology to make its own semiconductors, but the company found workarounds by obtaining chips designed by third parties. The latest […]

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 23, 2019 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

The heads of Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook fended off tough questions from lawmakers last month at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee. To help allay concerns about monopolistic business practices, each CEO sought to portray his company as representing American values and serving American interests. They all did so in part by pointing to a threat supposedly bigger than their own companies: China. “If you look at where the top technology companies come from, a decade ago the vast majority were American. Today, almost half are Chinese,” Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg said in his opening remarks. “There’s […]

President Donald Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He hold a lunch after the signing of the phase-one U.S.-China trade deal, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Washington, Jan. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Not long ago, The New York Times labeled President Donald Trump the “biggest obstacle” to his own administration’s China policy. Trump’s trade war with China, which he launched as part of his campaign promise to get tough on its unfair trade practices, has always had unclear and shifting goals, while producing minimal results. Even as his administration has taken a relatively tough line against China’s high-tech industrial policies, Trump’s odd affinity for authoritarian leaders, including his “good friend” in China, Xi Jinping, kept getting in the way of a coherent policy, especially when it came to protecting human rights. Any […]

Mauricio Claver-Carone, the Trump administration’s nominee for president of the Inter-American Development Bank, speaks to the press in La Paz, Bolivia, Jan. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Juan Karita).

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, traveled to Bogota this week, ostensibly to announce up to $5 billion in financing under the White House’s new United States-Colombia Growth Initiative. The money had been pledged months ago by the U.S. Development Finance Corporation, and it is contingent on investment-worthy projects, in any case. But the timing of the visit was hardly a coincidence. One of the officials traveling with O’Brien was Mauricio Claver-Carone, the White House’s point man on Latin America, who is making an audacious bid to lead the Inter-American Development Bank, or IDB. In remarks following his […]

American flags are displayed together with Chinese flags in Beijing, Sept. 16, 2018 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Guest contributor Yuan Ren wrote the lead story in China Note this week. President Donald Trump’s increasingly hawkish attempts to limit China’s influence in the United States broadened into cultural territory last week, when the State Department ordered the Washington headquarters of China’s state-funded Confucius Institutes to re-classify as a foreign mission in the U.S., much like its consulates and embassies. The Trump administration claimed that the government educational organization was under significant control of the Chinese Communist Party […]

Employees at work in the Honda car plant in Celaya, Mexico, Feb. 21, 2014 (AP photo by Eduardo Verdugo).

The special protection that investors based in the United States have long enjoyed when they do business abroad seems to be on its way out, and it’s about time. Unlike other private parties, including workers and consumers, foreign investors have access to special arbitration arrangements to protect their businesses in partner countries that sign bilateral investment treaties or preferential trade agreements with the U.S. This mechanism, known as investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, has attracted increased scrutiny since the U.S. insisted on including an expanded version of it in the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s. Now, both […]

U.S. President Donald Trump after attending a joint press conference with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, Nov. 9, 2017 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

The global economic map is reshuffling, and predictions abound on where the pieces will land. As companies scramble to protect themselves from U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade wars, the growing technology rivalry between the United States and China, and the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, will the long-promised “reshoring” of manufacturing back to higher-wage countries finally take place? Will the U.S. and China “decouple” their economies, particularly for the technologies of the future? If so, how will Europe, Japan and others respond? For the moment, the big winner is uncertainty. We have moved from a world in which companies […]

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2019 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

When the United Nations commemorates its 75th anniversary next month, it will be in a somber mood. Well before COVID-19 hit, the Trump administration’s “America First” policies had deprived the world body of its traditional leader, the United States, while rising geopolitical frictions had paralyzed the U.N. Security Council. The coronavirus pandemic has reinforced these dynamics, accentuating U.S. unilateralism and exacerbating an increasingly heated rivalry between the U.S. and China. Much of the U.N.’s productive work has been brought to a standstill. The Security Council dithered for months on a noncontroversial resolution to freeze violent conflict during the pandemic, thanks […]

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, left, and Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, during a meeting in Taipei, Taiwan, Aug. 10, 2020 (pool photo by Central News Agency via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar this week became the highest-level American official to visit Taiwan since 1979, when Washington severed official diplomatic ties with Taipei. The optics of the trip were questionable, as it came amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and China, which considers Taiwan a breakaway province that should be brought under its control, by force if necessary. Nevertheless, the visit was a boost for Taiwan, as it deals with constant anxiety over Chinese aggression. […]

Former Vice President Joe Biden tours McGregor Industries, a metal fabricating facility in Dunmore, Pa., July 9, 2020 (AP photo by Matt Slocum).

However one judges the results, there is no question that President Donald Trump has taken American trade policy in a very different direction than his predecessors going back decades. He has rejected multilateralism and severely weakened the World Trade Organization, while embracing the use of tariffs against allies and adversaries alike. Biden has been clear that, if elected, he would restore a more multilateral approach, especially with respect to challenging Chinese trade practices. He has also assured union supporters that he would put the interests of American workers at the core of his trade policy. Beyond those broad principles, however, […]

President Donald Trump looks at his phone during a roundtable with governors at the White House, Washington, June 18, 2020 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

In mid-July, 130 high-profile Twitter accounts were hijacked by a small group of hackers, apparently led by a teenager in central Florida. They were able to take over some of the social media service’s most prominent handles—including those of Kanye West, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk—and use them to scam hundreds of people out of a combined $118,000 in bitcoin. It was the biggest security breach in Twitter’s history, and a stunning embarrassment for the company. The hack also entailed a high level of risk to users’ personal security. According to Twitter, the hackers were able to not only send […]

Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, at a press conference in Tehran, Feb. 16, 2020 (AP photo by Ebrahim Noroozi).

The Trump administration’s strategy of applying “maximum pressure” on Iran has succeeded in inflicting unprecedented economic pain on the country, particularly since the U.S. withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and subsequently reimposed punishing sanctions. Yet, despite the resulting political pressures that have mounted in Iran, the strategy has failed to meet its ostensible goal of bringing Tehran back to the negotiating table to agree to a far more comprehensive deal. Nor has it persuaded Iran to significantly alter its regional behavior, particularly its support for proxies that are hostile to the U.S. and Washington’s partners in […]

The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle lifts off at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, May 30, 2020 (AP photo by John Raoux).

The splashdown of two American astronauts, Robert L. Benken and Douglas G. Hurley, in the Gulf of Mexico last Sunday was historic in many ways. It was the first water landing by NASA since 1975, and marked the completion of the first manned trip into outer space by a private company. Perhaps most importantly, it showed that the United States has officially regained the ability to send astronauts into space. For the better part of a decade, since the retirement of the space shuttle program in 2011, the United States depended on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to get its astronauts to […]

A man opens the social media app TikTok on his cell phone, in Islamabad, Pakistan, July 21, 2020 (AP photo by Anjum Naveed).

The wildly popular video-sharing platform TikTok and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, have had a rough couple of months. The government of India banned TikTok in June—along with dozens of other Chinese apps—and authorities in a number of other major markets are investigating TikTok over national security and data privacy concerns. President Donald Trump said last week that he would ban the app in the United States, but then changed his mind and gave his blessing to a proposed deal in which Microsoft would buy TikTok’s operations in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia. On the Trend Lines podcast […]

Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event at the William “Hicks” Anderson Community Center in Wilmington, Del., July 28, 2020 (AP photo/Andrew Harnik).

With polls making it appear increasingly likely that Donald Trump has entered the twilight of his presidency and could be defeated in the November election, it is not too soon to focus on the blind spots and liabilities that come with his Democratic challenger. Since he secured his party’s nomination in a sudden burst of primary victories in March that abruptly turned around a flagging campaign, former Vice President Joe Biden has benefited from two main types of appeal. First, and probably most powerfully in a country where many have tired of Trump, is the simple fact that he is […]

The icon for the popular video-sharing app TikTok, in New York, Feb. 25, 2020 (AP photo).

Over the past few months, the wildly popular video-sharing app TikTok and its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, have found themselves mired in a serious public relations crisis. In June, India banned dozens of Chinese apps, including TikTok, over national security concerns, and officials in Australia are reportedly investigating the app due to concerns over its ties to the Chinese Communist Party. In the United States, President Donald Trump seemed ready to ban the app last week, but has now given his blessing to a potential deal in which Microsoft would buy TikTok’s operations in the U.S., as well as in […]

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