Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Evan Vucci / AP

President Trump is considering an aggressive step against China over its theft of U.S. intellectual property and China's other industrial policies that harm American companies. An announcement could come as soon as this week, multiple sources told Axios.

Trump could signal, or implicitly direct, the U.S.Trade Representative to "self-initiate" an investigation of China under section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act. Initiating an investigation under this section could result in either a new WTO dispute between the U.S. and China or unilateral retaliation by the Trump administration. It's too early to say what form that could take, but all tools, including tariffs, would be on the table.

Why this matters: In his career as a businessman and on the campaign trail, Trump has long railed against China for ripping off the U.S. But, so far at least, he has been more cautious in office because he wants President Xi to help restrain North Korea's nuclear program. If Trump takes an aggressive trade turn against China it would suggest he's positioning himself to turn his back on this strategy with China.

What you need to know:

  • Even the most ardent trade advocates in the U.S. concede that China unfairly infringes upon U.S. intellectual property rights. These include forcing U.S. companies to share their technology with Chinese companies or the government as a condition of investing in China. (For example, here's a 2017 USTR report with details on technology transfer.)
  • In that sense, this is not nearly as controversial as other potential actions such as "national security" tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
  • But that doesn't mean China won't respond, at least rhetorically, in aggressive fashion.
  • If the USTR Robert Lighthizer initiates a section 301 investigation of China, it could take several months and could end up at the WTO.
  • The Trump administration views this as a political winner from the Rust Belt (with many voters blaming globalization in general and China in particular for their economic woes) to Silicon Valley (which agrees Chinese IP theft is a problem).

Bottom line: The nationalist/"China hawk" wing of the White House — including Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro — have been working on this. But this is pure Trump. The President has spoken for 30 years about foreign countries ripping off America, and he spoke in heated terms about China on the campaign trail. As we've noted, Trump has been more rhetorically consistent on this issue than on any other he's talked about in his decades in the public eye.

Go deeper

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.

Kids’ screen time up 50% during pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When the coronavirus lockdowns started in March, kidstech firm SuperAwesome found that screen time was up 50%. Nearly a year later, that percentage hasn't budged, according to new figures from the firm.

Why it matters: For most parents, pre-pandemic expectations around screen time are no longer realistic. The concern now has shifted from the number of hours in front of screens to the quality of screen time.

In photos: D.C. and U.S. states on alert for pre-inauguration violence

National Guard troops stand behind security fencing with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building behind them, on Jan. 16. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Security has been stepped up in Washington, D.C., and state capitols across the U.S. as authorities brace for potential violence this weekend.

Driving the news: Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by some supporters of President Trump, the FBI has said there could be armed protests in D.C. and in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!