TARIFF TIME

Early this morning, the Trump administration implemented 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion worth of US imports from China. The measures aim to combat perceived Chinese trade abuses and counter unfair state support for domestic technology firms. As expected, China responded in kind with tariffs on the same amount in US exports.


This latest round of tit-for-tat signals a major escalation in the ongoing trade dispute between the US and China. Is anyone winning? Here’s Gabe Lipton with some thoughts on where each side stands:

President Trump believes he’s playing a stronger hand:

  • The US economy is strong: The Atlanta Fed projects the US economy to grow at an annualized rate of 4.8 percent in the second quarter of the year. For the first time in more than 20 years, there aremore job openings in the US than people looking for jobs.
  • China faces its own set of economic challenges: In the past few weeks, China’s currency and stock market have plunged, painful reminders of a period of weakness in 2015 that rattled investors and the country’s political class.
  • And China can’t go blow-for-blow with the US on tariffs: China imports about $130 billion in goods from the US, and the US about $500 billion from China. China will run out of goods on which to place tariffs long before the US does.

But Xi Jinping’s not ready to back down:

  • Xi’s less vulnerable: He doesn’t face the same business and political constituencies that could force Donald Trump to back down. And he doesn’t need to win Michigan or Pennsylvania to maintain power.
  • China’s home grown economic woes are mostly positive: The recent slowdown and related market turmoil comes as much from deliberate steps that are part of Xi’s reform efforts as by Trump’s trade actions.
  • And China can hit the US in other ways: Tariffs are far from the only weapon. Beijing can restrict US companies' access to the Chinese market or cut Chinese tourism to the US. When it comes to trade war, the power of near complete control over business and society shouldn’t be underestimated.

President Trump says that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.” How much damage will be done before we find out whether he’s right?

Technology has played a big role in accelerating globalization. While it's our business to advance technology, we also believe that technology should respect and even help protect the world's timeless values. That conviction has led us to announce a new and fourth pillar to Microsoft's AI for Good portfolio – our $125 million, five-year commitment to use artificial intelligence to tackle some of society's biggest challenges. This new pillar will focus on AI for Cultural Heritage. Read more at Microsoft On The Issues.

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This Saturday, July 20, will mark the 50-year anniversary of the day a human being first stepped onto another world. A moment born out of Cold War political pressures, it's easy to forget a half century later how much bitter controversy the project provoked at home and the intensity of the worldwide fanfare that followed its success.

The moon mission's primary purpose was to defeat the Soviet Union. By the time John Kennedy became president in 1961, the Soviet Union had advanced far ahead of the United States in the race for achievement in space. In October 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik, the world's first satellite. A month later, a dog named Laika became the first living creature to travel beyond Earth's atmosphere. In April 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth, the first human to do so.

In early May, Alan Shepard became the first American in space, spurring Kennedy to announce a far more ambitious plan. On May 25, Kennedy famously pledged that by the end of the decade Americans would go to the moon and return safely to the Earth.

Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, but new President Lyndon Johnson quickly signaled his intention to see the promise kept. The Soviets held their space lead through 1965, by landing an unmanned craft on the Moon.

The moon mission stoked controversy in the United States. A review of polls reveals that only in 1969 did a majority of Americans support the project. Many people argued that the billions spent on a moonshot should go toward the war in Vietnam or to fight poverty in America's inner cities. "No hot water, no toilets, no lights. But Whitey's on the moon," sang musician and activist Gil Scott Heron. It didn't help when a fire during the Apollo 1 mission killed three astronauts and destroyed their space module.

But when Neil Armstrong became the first person to step onto the moon on July 20, 1969, the event took on a life of its own. It was a decade framed by two images of respected TV anchorman Walter Cronkite—shaken to the core on air by the 1963 murder of President Kennedy and then speechless with awe as Americans bounded across the surface of the moon.

A decade that included confrontation with the Soviets in Cuba, the assassinations of John Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy, a failing war in Vietnam, race riots in American cities, and violent chaos at the 1968 Democratic Party convention ended with an accomplishment a quarter million miles away, that was watched live by 94 percent of Americans who owned a TV.

Americans weren't the only ones watching. About 650 million people around the world watched the moon landing live on TV, making the event the first truly global televised event. Nine weeks later, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins began a world tour.

Concerns that planting an American flag on the moon's surface would seem an act of obnoxious nationalism faded as the three men were greeted by overflow crowds in 27 cities in 24 countries over 39 days. An estimated one million people greeted them in Dhaka (then Pakistan) and some 1.5 million turned out in Mumbai (then Bombay).

Fifty years later, moon missions are still a mark of national prestige. Russia, China, India, the EU, Japan, and Israel have all sent probes to orbit the Moon or landed vehicles on its surface. But none of them matches that first "giant leap for mankind."

Next up: Mars? For thoughts on the next space race, click here.

Bonus fact: An iPhone has more than 100,000 times the processing power of the computer that landed Apollo 11 on the moon.