Tariff Time for China

Tariff Time for China

It sure is hard to keep pace with Donald Trump. He proved it again yesterday by replacing National Security Advisor HR McMaster with the hawkish John Bolton.


A few quick thoughts:

  1. In 2005, to sidestep a vote in the Senate, President George W. Bush used a recess appointment to make John Bolton his ambassador to the United Nations, because he didn’t believe a Republican Senate would approve him.
  2. Three years ago, Bolton wrote an op-ed in the New York Times under the headline “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.
  3. Three weeks ago, Bolton wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal under the headline “The Legal Case for Striking North Korea First.”
  4. Trump is a punch thrower. He will now be taking national security advice from a punch thrower.

More to say on that in future editions. Today we want to focus on yesterday’s big trade news.

Trump wasn’t kidding when he pledged to get tough with the world’s largest emerging economy. Senior advisors have reportedly recommended US tariffs on Chinese exports of about $30 billion, but Trump decided to push that up to $60 billion. More than 1,000 products could be affected. We’re also likely to see new restrictions on Chinese investment in the US.

Another few thoughts:

  • China will move quickly to retaliate. For a glimpse of the anxiety this will cause US farmers, check out this piece from the Des Moines Register, which warns that China’s response will directly target states that Trump considers part of his political base.
  • China may also target the US auto sector for the same reason. (Michigan might be the most closely watched state on the electoral map as 2020 approaches.)
  • This gets to a point we’ve made before: Trump believes the Chinese economy is more vulnerable than the US economy, while China’s Xi Jinping believes he is stronger politically than Trump. They’re both right, and this confidence on both sides creates a risk of escalation that neither side wants.
  • To try to avoid that escalation, China will probably signal that it means to match Trump’s actions without exceeding them. We’ll hear the word “proportional” a lot in coming days.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

More Show less

Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

More Show less

In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

More Show less

When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

More Show less

YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

More Show less

Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal