Welcome to Axios World, where two evenings a week we break down what you need to know about the big stories from around the globe.
Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
President Trump is pushing both China and Iran to the brink, betting they’ll capitulate and warning of dire consequences if they don’t.
Why it matters: The stock market is already taking a beating as China retaliates to Trump’s tariff hikes on $200 billion in Chinese goods, and analysts are warning of a possible global recession if he follows through with his threat to extend them to all Chinese imports.
Between the lines: This is how Trump negotiates, Axios’ Jonathan Swan emails:
The latest: China announced tariff hikes today on $60 billion in U.S. goods. Meanwhile, the Communist Party’s propaganda machine kicked into high gear, Bill Bishop reports in his Sinocism newsletter.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added a last-minute stop in Brussels to his schedule today in order to warn leaders there of the “escalating threat” from Iran.
“Today, the question in Washington — and surely in Tehran, too — is whether President Trump is making moves that will provoke, instigate, or inadvertently drag the United States into a war with Iran,” Robin Wright argues today in the New Yorker.
What to watch: Last month, as the U.S. stepped up its attempts to block all Iranian oil exports, Iran threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the “world’s most important oil chokepoint,” per Fortune.
Orbán in the Oval. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Trump praised Hungary's Viktor Orbán in an Oval Office meeting today as "respected all over Europe," lauded his draconian approach to immigration and brushed aside a question about his efforts to undermine Hungary's democratic institutions.
Why it matters: "Orbán's politics skew authoritarian: He has repressed civil society and the media while fueling corruption, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. Trump's meeting with him lends legitimacy to his illiberal agenda," Jonathan Katz of the German Marshall Fund writes for Axios Expert Voices.
Flashback: Barack Obama declined to host Orbán, and George W. Bush moved a 2001 meeting from the Oval Office over concern about his more controversial views. Bill Clinton did host the Hungarian prime minister in 1998, during his first stint in office.
Correction: This post previously stated that Bush declined to host Orbán altogether. I apologize for the error.
Not your average book club: Fernández supporters at the launch of her new book, "Sincerely." Photo: Emiliano Lasalvia/AFP/Getty Images
Argentina's center-right ruling coalition suffered a resounding defeat Sunday in regional elections, but the lessons ahead of October's presidential vote are less clear cut.
The big picture: The landslide winner in Córdoba, incumbent Gov. Juan Schiaretti, falls between two pillars of Argentine politics — Mauricio Macri, the unpopular president, and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, his populist predecessor. Fernández is aiming for a political comeback despite facing a slew of corruption charges.
Flashback, from the FT's outgoing Latin America editor John Paul Rathbone:
Zoom out: The Economist lays out "clear signs of disenchantment with democracy" across Latin America in this week's edition.
The largest free trade area in the world, both by area and by population, will formally come into effect on May 30, now that Gambia has become the 22nd country to ratify the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, or AfCFTA, Axios' Felix Salmon writes.
The big picture: Africa has 1.2 billion people — more than double the EU or NAFTA. Almost every African country has signed the treaty; the one big exception is Nigeria. AfCFTA came together in record time, after first being proposed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame in March 2018. As a result, a lot of the implementation details are a bit fuzzy.
Reality check: Africa's trade problems won't be solved overnight. The continent needs some $50 billion per year in infrastructure investment, and truckers are still likely to spend hours or days idling at international borders.
Why it matters: Almost every African country exports more outside the continent than it does within it. African supply chains are extremely weak, and the amount of prosperity that could be generated by strengthening them is enormous. AfCFTA, on its own, is not sufficient to create a booming market in intra-African trade. Still, it's an extremely important milestone on the way there.
People in emerging economies around the globe are becoming wary of using social media for political news due to the rampant amount of misinformation spreading on those platforms, according to a new Pew Research Center study.
Why it matters: Social media has largely democratized ideas and information, but people in developing countries now say that the technology also makes it easier for politicians to manipulate them — meaning it isn't as reliable as in-person communications, Axios' Sara Fischer writes.
Details: A median of 65% of respondents from the 11 countries surveyed say that social media increases the risk of manipulation by domestic politicians. A median of 57% say those same technologies increase people's ability to have a meaningful voice in politics.
Go deeper: Subscribe to Sara's Media Trends newsletter
Gorbachev reads his resignation statement on Christmas, 1991. Photo: Vitaly Armand/AFP/Getty Images
Werner Herzog's portrait of Mikhail Gorbachev is of a profoundly lonely man for whom pride and regret have blended into a single emotion.
Gorbachev blames "reckless" politicians like Boris Yeltsin for the collapse of the USSR:
Gorbachev brightens when asked about his good fortune in meeting his wife, Raisa, who died in 1999: “Why do you say it was luck? I searched for her and I found her.”
"Meeting Gorbachev" is playing in select theaters and will come to DC's E Street Cinema later this month.
Sunday cricket on the beach in Elie, Scotland. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
“Let’s quarrel with Canada. I will declare war against them. Load that up on a ship and I will advise Canada that your garbage is on the way. Prepare a grand reception. Eat it if you want to.”— Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte last month on a long-running garbage feud with Canada
Thanks for reading — see you Thursday evening