Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — his vision for putting Beijing at the center of the global economy through $1 trillion in new infrastructure, trade deals and other connections — has encountered trouble in recent months, creating a backlash among both participating and prospective countries.

Yes, but: Just when the BRI is struggling, U.S. trade policy, especially President Trump's tariffs and reported threats to withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO), might unwittingly give it a boost.

Rising tariffs could shift supply chains, pushing China and BRI countries closer together. On Thursday, for example, China is expected to impose an additional 25% import tax on more than 500 U.S. goods, including soybeans. Naturally, Beijing will look to substitute some U.S. imports with goods from elsewhere. A loss for American farmers could be a boon for Kazakhstan and other countries that have been deepening their transportation ties with China through the BRI.

But China is not only using the BRI to build roads, railway and other “hard” infrastructure. Increasingly, it is also promoting “soft” infrastructure, including trade and investment rules that reflect its own interests. The United States has won 85% of the cases it has brought at the WTO, significantly higher than China’s 66% record. Unsatisfied with the status quo, China is setting up two courts at home to settle cross-border disputes along the BRI. Talk of withdrawing from the WTO gives Beijing’s hollow substitutes unwarranted opportunity.

What's next: Despite official claims of openness and transparency, projects under the BRI favor Chinese firms and are less open to local and foreign participation. These flaws should be highlighted and challenged, but the further the U.S. strays from the rules-based trading system it helped create, the more difficult it becomes to expose the gap between China’s rhetoric and reality.

Jonathan Hillman is director of the Reconnecting Asia Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Go deeper: CSIS’s interactive map of more than 2,700 infrastructure projects reshaping Asia

Go deeper

Uber to buy Postmates in $2.65 billion deal

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Uber has agreed to acquire food delivery company Postmates for $2.65 billion in an all-stock deal, the companies announced Monday.

Why it matters: This is the latest merger for the food delivery space as the sector undergoes an ongoing market consolidation.

Analysts expect soaring stock market despite slashed earnings forecasts

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Despite cutting expectations for companies' earnings by the most in history and revenue by the most since 2009, Wall Street analysts are getting increasingly bullish on the overall direction of the U.S. stock market.

What's happening: Equity analysts are expecting earnings in the second quarter to fall by 43.8% — the most since 2008's fourth quarter 69.1% decline.

Case growth outpacing testing in coronavirus hotspots

Data: The COVID Tracking Project. Note: Vermont and Hawaii were not included because they have fewer than 20 cases per day. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The United States' alarming rise in coronavirus cases isn't due to increased testing — particularly not where cases have grown fastest over the last month.

Why it matters: The U.S. doesn't yet know what it looks like when a pandemic rages on relatively unchecked after the health system has become overwhelmed. It may be about to find out.