1. Trump in Beijing: Smiles mask growing tensions
President Trump has finished his "state visit plus" to China. General Secretary Xi Jinping, now the most powerful Chinese leader in decades, put on a masterful show of pomp and flattery, including the first dinner in the Forbidden City for a foreign leader since 1949. Trump returned the flattery, as you would expect a guest to do, and even updated his Twitter cover photo with a pic with Xi.
Our thought bubble: Pomp and flattery aside, it is not so clear that Xi played Trump. The administration has a good team of China people. Trump may return to the U.S. and, barring a real breakthrough over the North Korea issue, begin rolling out a tougher policy towards China, especially on trade. Trump has been consistent for decades in his criticism of China and its trade practices, so the last 10 months of relative calm in the U.S.-China relationship seem more an anomaly than the status quo.
The leaders made a big show of announcing $250 billion in deals, but some, including Boeing's $37 billion plane order, were repackaged from deals already announced, while others are MOUs that may never come to fruition. The Chinese are always happy to announce big deals during presidential visits as they are flashy, often non-binding, and do nothing to address the structural barriers.
What we're hearing: Sources told me before the trip that the administration's approach to the structural issues was going to be "you know what you need to do" rather than a set of specific asks. Trump delivered that message in his private meetings, and in his public comments on the trade deficit he credited the Chinese and blamed his predecessors.
Read my full story here.