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President Trump and Xi Jinping leave a business leaders event at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in November of 2017. Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

The Trump team is bitterly divided over what's happening with China.

Between the lines: Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Larry Kudlow, Trump's top economic adviser, want a deal that has China buying billions in U.S. products in exchange for not facing retaliations on alleged theft of IP. But while hardliners Peter Navarro and Bob Lighthizer have been publicly silent, people familiar with their thinking say that they believe it would betray Trump’s economic agenda, missing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to force China to change its industrial practices.

What I'm hearing:

  • Three sources outside the White House who are familiar with the Trump officials' recent Beijing trip told me Mnuchin ran his own meetings with the Chinese on the last day of the trip, mostly keeping the rest of the U.S. team in a holding room.
  • There has been some concern within the administration that Mnuchin is trying to run these negotiations unilaterally. "Mnuchin marginalized the team and positioned himself as the guy," a source familiar with the talks told me.
  • An administration source familiar with the China meetings pushed back hard against this, saying it's a narrative being "pushed by interested parties both inside and outside" of the administration. He said the President is the one in charge of the deal and Mnuchin's one-on-one talks with Liu He were brief, "completely appropriate," and "highly choreographed," adhering to protocol.
  • "Everybody who knows what's actually happening knows that this is the President's decision to make," the official said. "There's going to be no deal that the President doesn't sign off on."

Be smart: "Whatever deal they might make will be temporary," says Richard McGregor, a senior fellow at Sydney's Lowy Institute, who is well-sourced in Beijing. "The Chinese expect the U.S. to pocket whatever concessions they might make and then come back for more in a few months."

Go deeper

Netflix tops 200 million global subscribers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Netflix said that it added another 8.5 million global subscribers last quarter, bringing its total number of paid subscribers globally to more than 200 million.

The big picture: Positive fourth-quarter results show Netflix's resiliency, despite increased competition and pandemic-related production headwinds.

Janet Yellen plays down debt, tax hike concerns in confirmation hearing

Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen at an event in December. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Janet Yellen, Biden's pick to lead the Treasury Department, pushed back against two key concerns from Republican senators at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday: the country's debt and the incoming administration's plans to eventually raise taxes.

Driving the news: Yellen — who's expected to win confirmation — said spending big now will prevent the U.S. from having to dig out of a deeper hole later. She also said the Biden administration's priority right now is coronavirus relief, not raising taxes.

Trump gives farewell address: "We did what we came here to do"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump gave a farewell video address on Tuesday, saying that his administration "did what we came here to do — and so much more."

Why it matters, via Axios' Alayna Treene: The address is very different from the Trump we've seen in his final weeks as president — one who has refused to accept his loss, who peddled conspiracy theories that fueled the attack on the Capitol, and who is boycotting his successor's inauguration. 

You’ve caught up. Now what?

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