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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.
Facebook is under fire for Russian manipulation of the platform around the 2016 U.S. election. So far there are no signs China has used the platform as nefariously but the NYT reports that Communist Party external propaganda organizations are quite active on Facebook.
Thought bubble: China's "cybercrats" look at how "hostile foreign forces," to use their term, manipulated American social media platforms and are even more confident that their approach to information control and censorship is correct.
The Global Times, a nationalist tabloid affiliated with the People's Daily, argues that generally the Chinese public holds a positive attitude toward the Trump.
Yes, but: The taboid says this attitude was not easy to come by.
Irony alert: Most leading U.S. media outlets are blocked in China so few Chinese can actually read them.
Trump and Xi both addressed the summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, on Friday. Here's a glimpse of their dueling comments:
Winner: Trump jettisoned the Trans Pacific Partnership soon after taking office. China for years has been pushing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). RCEP is getting much more traction in the absence of TPP.
One perspective: Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, tweeted last night: "Every foreign leader I've spoken with at #APEC thinks Trump presidency has been enormous gift for the Chinese. Every single one."
Go deeper: Antony J. Blinken, a deputy secretary of state during the Obama administration, argues in a New York Times op-ed this week that Trump Is Ceding Global Leadership to China.
Who says censorship is bad for business? There were several huge deals this week:
Sound smarter: The total market capitalization of all the Chinese internet firms is well over $1 trillion, with two companies — Tencent and Alibaba — valued at around $470 billion each.
Alibaba first created the 11.11 "Singles' Day" shopping event in 2009.
The numbers: In 2016, Alibaba generated $18 billion in gross merchandise volume on that one day. Citigroup estimates sales this year may hit 158 billion RMB ($24 billion). Amazon sold about $1 billion of merchandise on its most recent "Prime Day" event and it dwarfs U.S. holiday shopping:
Other Chinese firms have joined in but Alibaba dominates the day, and the company has turned the launch party into a gala event with global stars, including Pharrell Williams this year.
The details: "This year, over 140,000 brands will participate and offer promotions on 15 million-plus product listings, including more than 60,000 international brands engaging with the more than half-billion Chinese consumers that will be visiting Alibaba's platforms," Alibaba says via Alizila.
UCLA and Georgia Tech men's basketball teams are in China for the November 11 Pac-12 China basketball game.
What's happening: Three UCLA players — LiAngelo Ball (brother of LA Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball and son of LaVar Ball), Cody Riley and Jalen Hill — were arrested on suspicion of shoplifting sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store in Hangzhou, USA Today reports.
Where it stands: They may get off lightly, the USA Today says:
Quick take: China is basketball crazy and Alibaba Group, headquartered in Hangzhou, recently acquired the China broadcast rights to Pac-12 Sports, as well as the sponsorship of the Pac-12 China basketball game. If anyone has pull with the local Hangzhou police, it is Alibaba.
Don't forget: Alibaba vice-chairman Joe Tsai recently bought 49% of the Brooklyn Nets, with an option to buy the rest, per Bloomberg.
The new issue of The Atlantic takes us to China's new radio telescope, the world's largest and nearly twice the size of America's one Arecibo.
Buzz: FAST, the 500-meter aperture spherical telescope, was designed specifically to search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Congress defunded U.S. SETI research in 1993.
The Atlantic says the new telescope is part of a shift in China's approach to science as it aspires to superpower status:
An alien idea: Some day "take me to your leader" may mean the Chinese Communist Party general secretary, not the American president…