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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

56 mins ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Congress sprints to meet crush of deadlines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congressional leaders have been pushing off vital action for months — and a lot of it will catch up with them in December, which begins Wednesday.

Driving the news: Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. There are also consequential deadlines related to the debt limit, President Biden's agenda and annual actions like voting on the National Defense Authorization Act.