Updated May 27, 2018

Xi and Merkel. Photo: Jason Lee/AFP/Getty Images

The world’s most powerful woman, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, went to meet the world’s most powerful man, Chinese President Xi Jinping, on Thursday.

Why it matters: The trip comes as a deepening estrangement between Europe and the U.S. is reshaping Germany’s choices and challenges on the world stage. Only 14% of Germans think the U.S. is a reliable partner these days, according to a recent poll. More than 40%, meanwhile, now see China in a positive light. 

Germany and China find themselves in the same boat on a number of important issues.

  • Trade is one. As two of the world’s leading exporters, China and Germany run huge surpluses with the U.S., which means both are now in the crosshairs of the Trump administration’s zero-sum trade policies. The White House has already singled out key national industries—autos in Germany, advanced technology in China—for possible tariffs.  
  • Merkel and Xi also agree that Trump’s walkout on the Iran deal was an impetuous and dangerous move. They will try to forge a path forward that preserves the deal, even in the face of new US sanctions.  

But Merkel also has a huge bone to pick with Xi about China’s tech and industrial policies, which discriminate against foreign companies, and about Beijing’s siphoning of advanced technologies through investment in European firms. 

  • After all, China is an emerging competitor in markets for high-value industrial goods that German has dominated for decades.
  • The irony is that the Trump administration is also upset with China about these same issues, but has chosen to take up a trade fight with its European allies rather than work with them to pressure China together.  

The bottom line: This leaves Merkel — who just weeks ago called for a new and more assertive European foreign policy — in the extraordinary position of having to find common ground with a rising competitor, because of the lack of common cause with a traditional ally. 

Sign up for Signal, a twice-weekly newsletter from GZERO Media, a Eurasia Group company.

Go deeper

Updated 44 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Esper catches White House off guard with opposition to military use, photo op

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at a press briefing Wednesday that he does not currently support invoking the Insurrection Act, an 1807 law that permits the president to use active-duty troops on U.S. soil, in order to quell protests against racial injustice.

Why it matters: President Trump threatened this week to deploy military forces if state and local governments aren't able to squash violent protests. Axios reported on Tuesday that Trump is backing off the idea for now, but that he hasn't ruled it out.

Updates: George Floyd protests continue for 9th day

Demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue on June 3. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Largely peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people continued Wednesday, marking nine straight days of demonstrations.

The latest: As several major cities moved to lift curfews, NYPD officers "aggressively" dispersed large crowds in Brooklyn and Manhattan beyond New York City's 8 p.m. curfew, per the New York Times. The National Guard was stationed outside many protests Wednesday night, including in Hollywood and Atlanta.

Trump hits back at Mattis: "I gave him a new life"

President Trump speaks at the White House. Photo: Doug Mills - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump unloaded on his former defense secretary via Twitter on Wednesday, hours after James Mattis condemned him for making a "mockery of our Constitution" in his response to mass protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing.

What he's saying: "Probably the only thing Barack Obama & I have in common is that we both had the honor of firing Jim Mattis, the world’s most overrated General. I asked for his letter of resignation, & felt great about it. His nickname was 'Chaos', which I didn’t like, & changed it to 'Mad Dog'"