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Photo: Ralf Hirschberger/picture alliance via Getty Images

Michael Pillsbury is worried Trump's negotiations with China are unraveling. The hawkish former Pentagon official — who Trump has called "probably the leading authority on China" and who reportedly huddled with Trump in the Oval the day before Trump left for his G20 meeting with President Xi — said "there's a risk the deal will come undone."

Why it matters: Pillsbury said he's "getting warnings from knowledgeable Chinese about the American claims of concessions" that the Chinese have said they never made. These contradictions include U.S. claims that the Chinese agreed to "immediately" address their most egregious industrial behavior, to "immediately" restart purchases of U.S. agriculture, and to slash tariffs on American cars.

What he's saying: "I have advised the president's team that for the past 40 years the American side avoids disclosing Chinese concessions before the final agreed written statement is released," Pillsbury told me in a phone interview today.

Between the lines:

  • Bloomberg has tabled the flurry of confusing and contradictory statements that Chinese and U.S. officials have made since their working dinner in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
  • The Washington Post has a longer piece on the mass confusion over the China negotiations, and how markets appear to be losing faith in Trump's willingness or capacity to strike a deal with Beijing.
  • And we reported yesterday on how the White House took the better part of a working day to publicly clarify when the 90-day truce with China began. (It began on Dec. 1. Trump's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters, yesterday, the 90-day freeze on new tariffs would begin on Jan. 1.)

The bottom line: It's never easy dealing with the Chinese. They routinely abuse trade laws and steal from U.S. businesses; and Trump is right that his predecessors failed to adequately confront Beijing.

  • U.S.-China negotiations typically devolve into phony promises and gobbledygook.
  • But that's what appears to be happening now. The Trump team's public handling of the economic negotiations — so far — makes even senior officials doubt that this omnishambles will change any time soon.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Exclusive: Meta's civil rights chief aims to "turn the knob" for good

Photo Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Meta

A year ago, Facebook brought in Roy Austin, Jr. to lead a new team focused on civil rights. Since then, he has assembled a squad of experts advising parent company Meta on everything from voting rights to hate speech to ensuring new products don't have discriminatory impact.

The big picture: Austin's team of nine must tackle those tough issues inside a company of nearly 70,000 employees serving more than 3 billion users around the world.

Momentum builds for salary transparency

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New York City will soon require employers to supply a salary range when they're advertising a position — the biggest step yet in the growing but controversial movement for pay transparency.

Why it matters: Laws like New York's aim to give workers, particularly women and people of color, more power in job negotiations. But the rise in remote work is throwing a wrench into the effort.

2 hours ago - Health

Contact tracing fizzles across America

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

States across the country are scaling back their contact tracing efforts, often focusing on vulnerable communities and relying more on Americans to alert close contacts themselves after testing positive for COVID.

Why it matters: As vaccines have become available, the virus has become more infectious and life has slowly headed more toward normal, health officials have come to view contact tracing as a relatively inefficient use of resources.