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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."

Updated 7 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."