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Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Sources close to President Trump tell Axios that the White House is in a China bind: A trade deal with China is "tough to improbable" in this deteriorating environment, with escalating security tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Why it matters: The biggest tool Trump has to pump the economy and the markets is a trade deal with China. But if anything, senior administration officials have turned harder against China in recent weeks.

This has less to do with trade than it does with national security, according to senior administration officials and sources briefed on the president’s thinking:

  • U.S. intelligence officials are worried about Hong Kong further deteriorating, and about the risk of the Chinese military overreaching in Hong Kong — and perhaps even in Taiwan.
  • Lots of members of Congress care about the U.S. protecting Taiwan from Chinese aggression, and Trump has enraged Beijing by increasing military sales to the Taiwanese from the Obama era.
  • And national security adviser John Bolton is a strong advocate for Taiwan.

Trump had been resisting chastising Chinese President Xi Jinping over his human rights abuses and his treatment of Hong Kong protesters. But he’s inched further toward criticizing the Chinese than he normally would in recent days.

  • Trump even hinted the Chinese wouldn’t get their trade deal unless they peacefully resolved the situation in Hong Kong — a move that pleasantly surprised China hawks.

When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper visited Australia earlier this month, they delivered an unequivocal message to senior Australian officials: The U.S. plans to forcefully push back against China’s destabilizing behavior in the Asia-Pacific.

  • Some left those meetings with the impression that the U.S. was serious about confronting China militarily.
  • Between the lines: This visit was important for the signals Pompeo and Esper sent, but didn’t get as much U.S. press attention as it deserved. (See Bloomberg's Aug. 4 story here.)

The bottom line: So if not a China trade deal, what then is left to juice Trump’s economy and stave off recession?

  • Tax cuts? Not going to happen.
  • Infrastructure? Not going to happen.
  • Federal Reserve rate cuts? Probably. But how much will these expected cuts actually achieve?

Go deeper: Trump says he is "the chosen one" to take on China in trade war

Go deeper

Updated 39 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: The end of the Omicron wave is in sight — Transplants rebound from COVID lull.
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden to announce plan to distribute 400 million masks for free — Government website for free COVID tests launches early.
  4. World: WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker

University of Michigan reaches $490M settlement in sex abuse case

Jon Vaughn, a former University of Michigan and NFL football player, speaks at a press conference in Ann Arbor, Mich., in June 2021. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

The University of Michigan on Wednesday reached a $490 million settlement with over a thousand survivors who allege that they were sexually assaulted by a former physician in the school's athletic department.

Driving the news: "It's been a long and challenging journey and these survivors have refused to remain silent," attorney Parker Stinar said Wednesday.

5 hours ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.