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Expand chart
Data: Xinhua; Map: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

China is building and upgrading railroads in the west and east of Iran, making the Persian Gulf nation the centerpiece of an enormous transportation-and-energy latticework connecting much of the global economy, per the NYT.

Why this is a big deal: In the same way that Britain ruled its 19th century empire through a far-flung navy, and the U.S. has done so through its trade deals and its own big naval ships, Beijing is preparing for the day years from now when it may be the premier global power. Its vehicle is an infrastructural Pax Sinica, what it calls "One Belt, One Road."

In eastern Iran, the work is linking it with Afghanistan and Central Asia, the oil-rich former Soviet region. And in Iran's west, similar work is connecting the country to Turkey, and from there to Europe. China already has roads, railroads, oil and natural gas pipelines – or plans for them — to which these railroads will connect. A passenger or cargo will be able to ride from Tehran east to the western Chinese capital of Urumchi, or west anywhere in Europe. Other infrastructure stretches through southeast Asia, into Pakistan, and north to Russia.

  • A level deeper: Jon Alterman, director of Middle East Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tells Axios that One Belt, One Road is strategic at its core, designed "to secure China from a [potential] American-led blockade" of the Chinese mainland.
  • The U.S. is kind of doing it, too: "The U.S. military is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to ensure it can defend against the Chinese military on the shores of China if it comes to that," Alterman says. "If the U.S. is doing that, China is willing to spend a lesser amount to guard against the same eventuality."
  • And Iran fits right in to that vision: "China is serious about having a foothold in southwest Asia that is not subject to an American veto. Iran is a great hedge against American hegemony," he said.

Go deeper

Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults

A vaccination center installed at the Barbara Chapel of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria. Photo: Alex Halada/AFP via Getty Images

Austria's lower house of parliament voted on Thursday in favor of making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for most adults from next month.

Why it matters: The bill is expected to soon pass the upper house and be signed by President Alexander Van der Bellen in order for the law to take effect Feb. 1, per Reuters. It'd make Austria the first EU nation to impose such a sweeping mandate.

Hope King, author of Closer
Updated 5 hours ago - Economy & Business

Peloton pumps its brakes

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Peloton’s popularity is falling as swiftly as it shot up.

Why it matters: Not all pandemic habits stick around. Peloton's trajectory over the past two years exemplifies how challenging it's been for companies to gauge shifts in consumer demand — particularly in sectors heavily altered by the pandemic.

Mitch McConnell's remarks on Black voters raise ire

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during a Capitol Hill news conference earlier this year. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been widely criticized for comments he made this week about Black American voters.

Driving the news: When asked by a reporter Wednesday about concerns among voters of color, McConnell said "the concern is misplaced, because if you look at the statistics, Black American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans."