It's August. And you, a worldly and dedicated reader of Signal, are finally on vacation at your favorite beach getaway. The out-of-office reply is on, your phone is off, the sun is out, and the waves are rolling in. A gentle breeze ruffles the corner of your towel, seagulls wheel overhead, you gaze out at the sea.
Look, there on the horizon, the slate gray silhouette of a container ship inches ever so slowly across the ocean. How beautiful. How peaceful. How soothing.
How impossible… not to wonder if that ship might be headed for trouble in the Strait of Hormuz.. Wait, wait, maybe it's plying its way to the Arctic, to cross those new, hotly contested trade routes through the melting polar ice…
Or, hang on second, how much of the stuff on that cargo ship is affected by the US-China trade war? The two sides have put tariffs on $360 billion worth of each other's goods already. And now Trump says he'll slap a 10% duty on another $300 billion of Chinese exports starting September 1st! He's not happy with the slow pace of US-China trade talks. He's annoyed that the Chinese aren't buying more American products like they said they would. Now he wants to really turn the screws on Xi Jinping, especially since the Chinese economy is slowing and...
No, no, back to the beach, you say to yourself. Relax. Zen. This is your vacation. Chill. The beach is where people go to tan, relax, read, sip goofy frozen drinks, play ridiculous "sports" like paddleball, and also discuss the strategic options available to the world's second largest economy. Oh, yes. China's entire leadership, you now remember, will soon retreat to the secretive beach resort of Beidahe for their annual policy confab.
This year the conversation over the Beidahe early bird buffet sure will be something: Xi Jinping and his advisers not only have to craft a response to Trump on the trade war – fight back, wait him out, or cave? -- but they also need to decide how to handle the Hong Kong protests, which are now increasingly targeting Beijing's control over the territory itself.
Enough! You dip your toes into the sand, close your eyes. This is your time off. Your time away from thinking about global politics. You've even managed to swear off reading Signal for a few days. If possible.
Lulled by the susurrant rush of surf, you are dozing in your chaise longue when suddenly you are jolted awake by a shrill chirping sound. A few feet away, a man rolls over on his beach blanket, cursing under his breath. He plunges his hand into a tote bag and pulls out a cell phone, and you notice that it's made by … Huawei!
You cannot escape.