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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 3 hours ago - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.

New wave of strikes will test worker power

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Thousands of John Deere workers hit the picket line this week after the union smacked down a new worker contract from the farm and equipment maker.

Why it matters: There’s a wave of worker angst spreading across the country. They wield new power that’s come with a historic worker shortage.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
5 hours ago - Technology

The smart city comes of age

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Better sensors, more intelligent AI, and the coming wave of 5G wireless could finally fulfill the promise of the smart city.

Why it matters: How we organize, run and power our cities will be increasingly important in the years ahead, as urbanization expands and the damaging effects of climate change compound.