WHAT WE'RE WATCHING
US-China trade talks – Today, US and Chinese negotiators are meeting for a third day to try to hash out a deal to end the trade war. Both sides have been hurt by tit-for-tat tariffs on $360 billion of cross-border trade. China's economy is growing at its slowest clip since the global financial crisis, by some measures, while the US stock market just experienced its worst December in 80 years.
On Tuesday, stocks jumped after President Trump tweeted that "talks with China are going very well!" and the countries agreed to extend negotiations. We'll find out soon whether that was just empty posturing or a sign of real progress.
Succession at the World Bank –On Monday, World Bank President Jong Yon Kim resigned unexpectedly. Under a long-standing gentlemen's agreement, in which the US picks the World Bank president while Europe gets first dibs on the head of the International Monetary Fund, Donald Trump will select Kim's successor. The US president is skeptical of multilateral institutions, but recently backed more funding for the Bank to help counter China's growing development influence. Some of Trump supporters are already suggesting that president should use the opportunity appoint a World Bank chief who is more focused on infrastructure and jobs and less focused on climate change. That could rile developing countries, which have long chafed as US dominance of the nomination process and have more to lose from climate shocks.
WHAT WE'RE IGNORING
Kim Jong-un's birthday train trip Beijing –Earlier this week, a mystery train was spotted crossing the North Korean border into China. On Tuesday, North Korean president Kim Jong-un appeared in Beijing, just in time for his 36thbirthday. Kim will use the visit to cozy up to China and grumble about US demands that North Korea unilaterally give up its nukes before it gets sanctions relief. Xi Jinping will repeat calls for dialogue, but he'll shy away from any moves that could alienate the US during ongoing trade talks. This looks more like an opportunity for two allies to check in than a sign of an impending breakthrough on denuclearization.
Hacked German politicians – Last week, Germany's political establishment was rocked by revelations that someone had hacked and published the personal details of hundreds of the country's politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel. Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany party was spared in the data dump, prompting speculation that it might have been the work of Russia or another country intent on destabilizing Merkel's fragile governing coalition. But it turns out the culprit was a 20-year-old German student living with his parents who said he found politicians annoying. In some ways, that's more terrifying than if it was the work of the nation-state, but since it now appears unlikely to spark a major international incident, we're parking this one under ignoring.