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Image: Harper Business

If you've ever wished you were a fly on the wall as top leaders in the U.S. and China were considering how to parry their counterparts' most recent moves, here's your big chance.

The big picture: "Superpower Showdown: How the Battle Between Trump and Xi Threatens a New Cold War" (HarperCollins, June 2020), by Wall Street Journal reporting duo Bob Davis and Lingling Wei, takes you behind the scenes of some of the biggest decisions over the past 25 years of the U.S.-China trade relationship.

Those moments include:

  • Bill Clinton's decision not to revoke China's most-favored nation status after the Tiananmen Square massacre.
  • China's entry into the World Trade Organization, the role of U.S. businesses as Beijing's biggest backers, and the sense of betrayal that human rights advocates felt at the time.
  • And of course, plenty of juicy detail about how both Trump and Xi, and their negotiators, hashed out tariffs, retaliations, strategy and concessions over the past three years.

Bonus: The book starts out with an incredible reveal, at least for those of us who have watched China for years: What Xi Jinping was really up to during the two weeks that he mysteriously disappeared in late 2012.

Zoom in: Each side of the current trade war suffered from a major misunderstanding of the other side.

  • "They think of the world like it's 1952 and the U.S. just won World War II," Davis told me in an interview. "But in 1952, the U.S. was more generous to the rest of the world."
  • "The biggest thing the Chinese side missed was how much of a change there was in Washington towards China," Wei said. "It wasn’t just the Trump administration, it wasn’t just Republicans. It crossed party lines. It took them quite a while to realize that."

The bottom line: Both the U.S. and China thought the trade conflict would be easier to resolve than it has been, Wei and Davis told me, because both sides overestimated the leverage they had over the other.

Go deeper: Wei, who was recently expelled from China along with a dozen other U.S. journalists, wrote a touching personal essay about her journey to becoming a U.S. citizen, returning to China to report, and now being forced to leave her family there.

Go deeper

Sep 30, 2020 - World

House report: U.S. intelligence agencies have failed to adapt to China threat

Xi Jinping and other Chinese politicians and delegates listen to the national anthem duirng the closing of the 19th Communist Party Congress in 2017. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday released a report finding that the U.S. intelligence community has failed to adapt to the growing threat from China, arguing that it will struggle to compete on the global stage for decades to come if it does not implement major changes.

The big picture: The 200-page report, based on thousands of analytic assessments and hundreds of hours of interviews with intelligence officers, determined that the intelligence community's focus on counterterrorism after 9/11 allowed China "to transform itself into a nation potentially capable of supplanting the United States as the leading power in the world."

Scoop: Border officials project 13,000 child migrants in May

The "El Chaparral" border crossing at Tijuana. Photo: Stringer/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

A Customs and Border Protection staffer told top administration officials Thursday the agency is projecting a peak of 13,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border in May, sources directly familiar with the discussion told Axios.

Why it matters: That projection would exceed the height of the 2019 crisis, which led to the infamous "kids-in-cages" disaster. It also underscores a rapidly escalating crisis for the Biden administration.

4 hours ago - World

U.S. strikes Iran-backed militia facilities in Syria

President Biden at the Pentagon on Feb. 10. Photo: Alex Brandon - Pool/Getty Images

The United States on Thursday carried out an airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to an Iran-backed militia group, the Pentagon announced.

The state of play: The strike, approved by President Biden, comes "in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.