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The Tianzi Hotel with the shape of Chinese deities. Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

As part of an assertive "America First" national security strategy that President Trump will unveil Monday, he will accuse China of "economic aggression," the Financial Times' Demetri Sevastopulo and Shawn Donnan scoop:

  • One person familiar with the strategy says it is "likely to define China as a competitor in every realm. Not just a competitor but a threat, and therefore, in the view of many in this administration, an adversary."
  • What it means: This is "a strong sign that he has become frustrated at his inability to use his bond with China’s President Xi Jinping to convince Beijing to address his trade concerns."
  • Why it matters ... Michael Allen, a former Bush official, now a Beacon Global Strategies managing director: "The national security strategy is the starting gun for a series of economic measures against the Chinese ... the Rosetta Stone for translating campaign themes into a coherent governing document.”

Winner: Steve Bannon. When I texted him the FT article, he replied: "#winning."

  • Flashback: This is what Jonathan Swan forecast when he reportedthat the National Security Strategy will "explain how Trump's 'America First' mantra applies to the vast range of threats America faces, including Chinese economic competition, Russian influence operations, and the weaponization of space."

Losers: Several top officials within the Trump adminstration's national-security apparatus, who opposed adding what one called a "political lens" to the strategy.

  • A senior Trump national-security official tells me: "This was added to be one of the headlines of the Strategy, for domestic political audiences."
  • The official added: "The Trump China trip didn't reflect this policy, both the public reported comments and the private conversations. ... If we truly believe China is 'aggressor,' there is a while suite of policy shifts that would need to correspond" that aren't currently planned."

CFR President Richard Haass — author of "A World in Disarray" (paperback out Jan. 2) — tells Axios from in-flight Wi-Fi that slapping Beijing could be costly:

  • "There are legit criticisms of China's trade policy ... But starting a trade war would leave both countries worse off.  U.S. exporters would pay a significant price.  Whatever Chinese inclination exists to work with us re North Korea would diminish."
  • "Why did this administration withdraw from the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership]?  It provided the basis for a regional trading system that either would have isolated China, or forced it to accept much more stringent terms if it wanted to be a full participant in regional trade. In short, there appears to be a serious disconnect between the NSS and Administration policy."
  • "The use of the word 'aggression' is a questionable choice.  Unfair trade practices, for sure. But aggression is a serious escalation on our part. Hard to see how it paves the way to a compromise, or does not contribute to an overall deterioration in the relationship at a time we need it re NK."
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Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

Driving the news: James and Jennifer Crumbley were each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

4 hours ago - World

Putin to demand legal guarantee against NATO expansion in call with Biden

Biden and Putin meeting in Geneva in June. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding a legally binding guarantee that NATO will not expand east — including to Ukraine — and plans to raise the issue in an upcoming phone call with President Biden, according to the Kremlin.

Why it matters: Russia has massed more than 94,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and could be preparing for a large-scale invasion at the end of January, Ukraine's defense minister said Friday.