Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!
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

Updated 14 mins ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

2 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.