Nearly two years after the Trump administration launched its trade war against China, President Trump and Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He will sign a deal in Washington on Wednesday. The full details are still murky, but here is what the so-called "phase one" deal between the world's two biggest economies is expected to include:

China will commit to buy billions of dollars of US oil, cars, aircraft, agricultural products and other goods over the next few years. It will also pledge to better protect US companies' intellectual property and technology secrets.

The US will halt the next scheduled round of tariffs on Chinese imports and reduce some other levies it imposed in September by half. It has already removed China from a list of "currency manipulators" this week ahead of the signing ceremony, a goodwill gesture important to Beijing.

Read Now

Iran launched ballistic missiles at two US bases in Iraq early on Wednesday, in retaliation for last week's US assassination of a top general, Quds Force commander Qassim Suleimani. Announcing the strikes, Iran's foreign minister said it had "concluded proportionate measures in self-defense" and did not seek a further escalation or war. This is a pivotal moment. Iran was bound to respond in some way to the US strike on Suleimani. Now it has done so, apparently without causing US or Iraqi casualties. This situation is still fluid, but for now, the limited strike and Tehran's careful language makes it look like Iran has given President Trump an opportunity to pocket a big victory in an election year while avoiding a wider conflict.

Read Now

Technology is changing faster than people or governments can keep up. The move to an information economy is rapidly displacing old industries. People subjected to a continual barrage of news and data feel anxious and alienated. They're suffering from "information overload."

These ideas could easily be part of a stock description of life at the beginning of the 2020s. In fact, they were first popularized half a century ago, in 1970, when the author Alvin Toffler and his wife Heidi, later credited by Alvin as co-author, published their book, Future Shock.

Read Now

Last week, Washington and Beijing struck a deal to pause their costly trade war. The US held off on new tariffs and reduced levies on some other Chinese goods, and China promised to buy more US goods and protect intellectual property rights better.

But don't let the trade truce fool you: powerful political forces are continuing to push the two countries apart, politically, economically, and technologically – a process that's been called "decoupling".

Read Now

This week, delegates from around the world are in Madrid to try – yet again – to hammer out a plan to address climate change. Four years ago, world leaders agreed in Paris to cap and then reduce greenhouse gas emissions to stave off the worst effects of global warming, but they left the details TBD. Today, CO2 levels are still rising, President Donald Trump has begun the process of withdrawing the US from the Paris Accord, and other governments haven't yet agreed on how to get emissions down. Spoiler alert: the meetings in Madrid are unlikely to change that.

Read Now

Tomorrow, millions of people will gather around dining tables across the United States to celebrate Thanksgiving – a day traditionally reserved for food, football, and reflecting on life's blessings. There'll be turkey and stuffing. And pie. But also: political conversations with relatives. To get you ready, we've imagined what some of the most important world leaders are thankful for this year:

Read Now

A few days ago, the New York Times published a bombshell report on the Chinese government's systematic oppression of Muslims in Western China. The story was about many things: human rights, geopolitics, Chinese society – but it was also about technology: Beijing's repression in Xinjiang province is powered in part by facial recognition, big data, and other advanced technologies.

It's a concrete example of a broader trend in global politics: technology is a double-edged sword with sharp political consequences. Artificial intelligence, for example, can help develop new medicines but it can also support surveillance states. Social media helps nourish democracy movements and entertains us with cat memes, but it also feeds ISIS and 4Chan.

Read Now

Six months after pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters began marching against an extradition law that would have allowed suspects to be tried in mainland courts, things in the semi-autonomous territory feel on the brink. The question is, the brink of what?

Rather than a sudden break that resolves the crisis one way or another – either a government capitulation or crackdown by Beijing – Hong Kong may instead be facing a prolonged, violent, and costly stalemate. Here's why:

Read Now