Photo: Str/AFP/Getty Images

China posted its largest trade surplus with the U.S. on record in 2018, the country's government data showed Sunday. The trade surplus was nearly $50 billion greater than 2017, with exports rising by 11.3%.

Why it matters: President Trump has made cutting the trade deficit with China a top administration priority, however it has widened significantly since he became president.

  • The trade surplus increase seemed to largely reflect changes by the U.S., including the $1.5 trillion tax cut and $300 billion increase in spending passed by Republicans in 2017 and the stronger dollar. Fiscal stimulus increases buying power, which often translates to increased purchases of foreign goods when a country's currency is stronger.
  • The Trump administration’s tariffs, and threats of more to come in 2019, also pushed Chinese exporters to quickly fill orders, and a weakening Chinese yuan meant attractive prices for American businesses and consumers.

Worth mentioning: China's global trade surplus — how much the country exports vs what it imports from the rest of the world — fell to its lowest level since 2013.

  • Per Bloomberg: "The latest trade data from China showed worse-than-expected numbers. The 7.6 percent drop in imports, the worst reading since 2016, pointed to softening demand at home, while exports fell 4.4 percent in December from a year earlier amid the trade dispute."

Go deeper

Updated 19 mins ago - World

China announces retaliatory sanctions on Rubio, Cruz and other U.S. officials

Photos: Graeme Jennings/Pool/Getty Images; Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images

China's Foreign Ministry announced Monday that it's imposing sanctions on Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), along with nine other Americans, per Bloomberg.

Why it matters: It's a direct response to similar actions by the U.S. that included the Trump administration placing sanctions on officials Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam last Friday over Beijing's encroachment of the Asian financial hub's s autonomy.

Biden’s union push could force showdown with Elon Musk

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images, Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Joe Biden wants to go big on climate change and big on unions. Elon Musk leads on the former but lags on the latter.

Why it matters: Musk isn’t uniquely averse to unions, but Tesla is considered a leader on the type of new technologies needed to tackle climate change. Musk’s leadership ethos could be in the crosshairs if Biden becomes president and follows through on his campaign vows.

Updated 1 hour ago - World

Police and protesters clash in Belarus after "Europe's last dictator" claims election win

Protesters and riot police clash in Minsk, Belarus, on Sunday during a demonstration against President Alexander Lukashenko's claim of a landslide victory. Photo: Misha Friedman/Getty Images)

Riot police clashed with protesters in Belarus overnight after a government exit poll predicted Sunday President Aleksander Lukashenko, an authoritarian who has ruled the Eastern European country since 1994, had overwhelmingly defeated a pro-democracy opposition candidate.

Why it matters: It's a precarious moment for the former Soviet republic, where decades of repression and a complete disregard for the coronavirus pandemic threaten to topple "Europe's last dictator." Rights groups said at least one protester was killed and dozens more wounded in a "police crackdown," per AP.