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 […]

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 […]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, and French President Emmanuel Macron during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, July 21, 2020 (Pool photo by Stephanie Lecocq via AP Images).

Something about the idea of Europe becoming a strategic actor in global affairs brings to mind the old Irish saying: May you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows you’re dead. Strategic autonomy has long been a recurring refrain for advocates of a more forceful Europe, one that is a rule-maker, rather than a rule-taker, in the shifting world order. But the European Union never seems to get any closer to realizing that goal, mainly due to internal divisions between member states over what interests to defend and advance, and wariness over the loss of sovereignty in […]

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 […]

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 […]

Flames from the LNU Lightning Complex fires jump Interstate 80 in Vacaville, Calif., Aug. 19, 2020 (AP photo by Noah Berger).

California prides itself on being a national and global trendsetter. Unfortunately, the state is also setting the pace for climate change disasters, with searing heat and intense wildfires now regular features of its endless summer. Last Sunday, Aug. 16, the aptly named Furnace Creek ranger station in Death Valley posted the highest temperature ever reliably recorded on Earth, when the thermometer hit 130 degrees Fahrenheit. That same weekend, lightning strikes north of Lake Tahoe set off the massive Loyalton Fire in desiccated Lassen and Sierra counties, producing a rare “fire tornado” as high winds whipped flames into a violent, all-consuming […]

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump give a joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Justin Sherman is filling in for Candace Rondeaux this week. The long-awaited fifth and final report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on its investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, which was released earlier this week, is full of disturbing details. The heavily redacted, 966-page report includes revelations about even closer links between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian intelligence operatives than Robert Mueller found in his special counsel investigation. It also concludes that Russia’s interference operations are still active today, less than three months before Election Day. But it didn’t take long before […]

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 […]

A CZ-5 rocket, carrying China’s first Mars explorer, lifts off from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in Hainan province, southern China, July 23, 2020 (FeatureChina photo by Yi Wei via AP).

On July 23, the Tianwen-1 spacecraft lifted off from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island, in southern China, bound for Mars. If all goes according to plan, the probe is scheduled to reach the red planet in February 2021. That would make China just the third country in history to land on Mars, after the United States and the Soviet Union. While Tianwen-1 is focused on scientific exploration, the decision for any country to invest in such an ambitious endeavor is always deeply political. And while analysts often emphasize the security motives driving China’s pursuit of advanced space […]

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 […]

A guard stands watch outside the entrance to death row at San Quentin State Prison, in San Quentin, California, Aug. 16, 2016 (AP photo by Eric Risberg).

At 8:07 a.m. on July 14, Daniel Lewis Lee was pronounced dead after being injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital. It marked the first time in 17 years that the U.S. government had carried out a federal death sentence, and was followed in quick succession by two more federal executions in the subsequent days. They took place almost a year after Attorney General William Barr announced that the Trump administration planned to restart capital punishment. Following a protracted legal battle and stays of execution by lower court judges, the Supreme Court vacated those orders last month, removing the final […]

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 […]

A shale gas well drilling site in St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania, March 12, 2020 (AP photo by Keith Srakocic).

The past year has been a perfect storm for America’s shale gas companies, on both the domestic and international fronts. Record-setting levels of American gas production and consumption in 2019 masked the fact that the industry was already under siege, as years of insufficient returns pushed investors away from financing new drilling and exploration. Meanwhile, newly commissioned projects aimed at exporting liquified natural gas, or LNG, faced headwinds on international markets due to a global supply glut. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these issues, as it further depressed domestic and international demand for natural gas. The collapse in oil prices as […]

President Donald Trump walks from Marine One at Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, N.J., Aug. 9, 2020 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

America needs a lot of things right now. It desperately needs leaders who can unify, not divide, its citizenry. It needs Congress to pass some form of pandemic relief bill, and it needed it yesterday. It needs a reprieve from the unrelenting toll taken on its soul by the coronavirus, a broken public health system, dysfunctional policing and entrenched inequality. Contrary, however, to the views espoused by some national security elites this week, what America does not need is for its military to solve the problem of President Donald Trump. It is hard to know what exactly was in the […]

Federal officers disperse Black Lives Matter protesters near the federal courthouse in Portland, Ore., July 24, 2020 (AP photo by Noah Berger).

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Steven Metz is filling in for Judah Grunstein this week. The Department of Homeland Security was created quickly in the traumatic year after the 9/11 attacks—a time when a fearful American public was desperate for anything that might make them safer. While the idea of an overarching organization to coordinate defending the U.S. homeland had floated around Washington for several years, 9/11 energized it. In November 2002, Congress passed the Homeland Security Act, combining 22 disparate federal departments and agencies linked only by their broad remit to deal with homeland security. Like many other actions undertaken […]

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