Hot on the heels of a report from the World Bank saying China is poised to overtake the U.S. as the world's largest economy this year comes the news that China really, really wishes it weren't.
A person involved in preparing the report told the Financial Times that "China wanted to throw this out. They don't want to be seen as number one. They're worried about the political implications with the U.S." They added: "[China] begged and threatened for a whole year... China hates it."
In another surprise, China's state media did not even mention the country's ascension to the No. 1 spot in the World Bank report. One would think that being coronated as the world's largest economy, a title held by the U.S. since the 1880s, would be seen as a crowning achievement after three decades of rapid economic growth. But China's leaders, according to the FT, are concerned that with great power comes great responsibility.
On the basis of economic activity per person, China is still a relatively poor country. This means that it does not want to be asked to do too much on the international stage.
The U.S. — as the world's largest economy — takes a very large role in international security, with its navy patrolling global shipping lanes, for example, and providing by far the largest national contribution of funding for international institutions like the United Nations, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. With China now on the cusp of being ranked as the world's largest economy, China fears it may be called on to play a bigger role. John Aziz
President Trump sometimes tells the story of how Reince Priebus reacted to his Access Hollywood tape 'for laughs'
Things did not look good for Donald Trump's presidential campaign in October of last year, when a 2005 Access Hollywood tape of Trump bragging about forcing himself on women was leaked. "When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything," said Trump shortly after he had married his current wife, Melania. "Grab them by the p----y. You can do anything."
Trump's comments disturbed Democrats and Republicans alike, with House Speaker Paul Ryan calling them indefensible. But today, Trump "laughs" at the reaction of his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, The Associated Press reports:
For laughs, Trump will sometimes recount a tense exchange with Priebus at one of the campaign's lowest moments: the release of a video in which Trump is heard making predatory comments about women. During an emergency campaign meeting, Priebus told Trump he should either drop out of the race or risk dragging down Republican candidates across the country. [The Associated Press]
Senior adviser Steve Bannon claims that it isn't Preibus' prediction that Trump finds funny, but the fact that he showed up to talk to Trump at all. "Reince had the courage to get on a train in Washington, D.C., go to Penn Station, go to Trump Tower and come to the meeting," Bannon told the AP. "That's courage." Jeva Lange
President Trump's company is now eyeing a second Trump Hotel in the nation's capital, The Washington Post reported Wednesday. Trump opened his first hotel, the Trump International Hotel, while he was on the campaign trail last fall. The potential second hotel would be "more affordable" than the existing luxury hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, and the Post noted that other developers would own the property, though they would pay the Trump Organization for "licensing rights and management."
Already, Trump's first hotel in Washington, D.C., has raised a plethora of ethics and conflicts of interest questions. The first event at Trump International Hotel was an official press conference called by Trump, then a presidential candidate, during which he noted the "brand-new ballroom" and deemed the hotel "one of the great hotels anywhere in the world." Since then, Trump has wined and dined his administration at the hotel, which resides on property leased by the federal government. Foreign embassies and political groups have also stayed at the hotel.
Though Trump initially promised that "no new deals" would be made by his company while he was in office, he later backed off of that pledge when he announced in January he was handing his business over to his sons. Instead, Trump said he would impose "severe new restrictions" on any new deals in the U.S.
The second D.C. hotel is far from a done deal, but it's apparently one of several hotels the Trump Organization is considering opening across the country under its new Scion brand. Eric Danziger, chief executive of the Trump Organization's hotel division, told The Washington Post he has "signed 'over 30' letters of intent — preliminary agreements — with developers to open Scions in cities across the country." Becca Stanek
President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are very different kinds of people, to say the least. That's why, when the Access Hollywood tape featuring Trump's lewd remarks about forcing himself on women was released last year, Pence was one of the first people Trump called to offer an apology (he also apologized on the phone to Pence's wife). Pence, by contrast, proposed to his wife while feeding ducks in the park and kept a red phone on his desk that only she had the ability to call, The Washington Post reports.
Needless to say, Trump and Pence have had to make some adjustments around each other since moving to Washington:
Mr. Pence's relationship with Mr. Trump is more respectful than familial, people close to both men said. They have worked out an odd-couple shtick in public, but the stark cultural differences are obvious. The president briefly tried to curb his use of expletives in front of his religious vice president but has reverted to four-letter form — and Mr. Pence, who is fond of joining colleagues for moments of shared prayer, has been less religiously demonstrative around Mr. Trump, aides say. [The New York Times]
As Indiana Rep. Luke Messer (R) put it to the Times, "There is quite a contrast between Mike and the president. Trump does not sound like a Hoosier — he says things I wouldn't say, he picks fights I wouldn't pick. But their relationship really works." Jeva Lange
Trump won't bring back many coal jobs. But he could quash America's fast-growing clean-energy industry.
When President Trump signed a series of executive orders at the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday aimed at dismantling his predecessor's attempt to counter climate change, he touted them as fulfilling a campaign promise to bring back lost coal jobs. Few people think that will happen, including Robert Murray, the CEO of America's largest privately held coal-mining company, Murray Energy, and a big supporter of Trump and his energy policy. "I would not say it's a good time in the coal industry — it's a better time," he told The Guardian.
There were 98,505 U.S. coal-mining jobs in 2015, versus 127,745 in 2008, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration, but most of those job losses are due to technology and cheaper and cleaner energy sources like natural gas and renewables, not regulation. When he spoke with Trump about coal and jobs, "I suggested that he temper his expectations — those are my exact words," Murray said. "He can't bring them back." BBC News has some charts:
On the other hand, clean-energy jobs outnumber coal and oil jobs in the U.S. by a 5 to 1 margin, according to a new Sierra Club analysis of Energy Department jobs data, and there are more jobs in solar, wind, energy efficiency, battery storage, and smart energy grid technology than oil, gas, and coal jobs in 41 states. And Trump's attempt to reverse the "war on coal" will not just contribute to climate change but could harm those growth industries and the jobs they create. "These facts make it clear that Donald Trump is attacking clean energy jobs purely in order to boost the profits of fossil fuel billionaires," said Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune.
Thomas Friedman is more searing, arguing in Wednesday's New York Times that Trump's energy policy suggests he's "a Chinese agent" who's "clearly out to make China great again." China's "new five-year plan is a rush to electric cars, batteries, nuclear, wind, solar, and energy efficiency — and a cap-and-trade system for carbon," he wrote. "Trump's plan? More coal and oil. Hello? How can America be great if we don't dominate the next great global industry — clean power?" California alone, he notes, "has far more advanced energy jobs than there are coal miners in America, and the pay is better and the work is healthier," but by "doubling down on coal," Trump is "squandering our lead in technology." Read the rest at The New York Times. Peter Weber
Though no evidence has been offered to back President Trump's baseless claim that former President Barack Obama wiretapped his phones at Trump Tower during the presidential election, an overwhelming majority of Republicans think it's likely. A CBS News poll released Wednesday found that 74 percent of Republicans believe it's "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that Trump's offices were wiretapped. Just 21 percent of Democrats think it's a possibility, while 49 percent of independents deemed it likely.
When Trump leveled the allegation on Twitter weeks ago, he offered no supporting evidence, and he has yet to come forward with any as he's continued to defend the claim. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, the Justice Department, and FBI Director James Comey have all said they have not uncovered any evidence whatsoever that backs Trump's allegation. Comey even noted during a hearing before the House Intelligence Committee earlier this month that it's impossible for a president to "unilaterally" order a wiretap, as Trump has claimed Obama did.
President Trump spoke six words to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) on Tuesday night, marking the first verbalization between the pair in over two months, Politico reports. "Chuck? I see Chuck. Hello, Chuck," Trump called out at a White House reception for the Senate.
While Trump once raved about his "good relationship" with Schumer — and on a private phone call, said he liked his home-state senator better than Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — the president has now turned to slamming Schumer for being the "head clown."
"By the time we got to inauguration, any hope that Schumer wanted to actually work together to find any common ground was clearly gone," an administration official explained to Politico. Schumer's speech at the inauguration and his ongoing defiance over confirming Trump's Cabinet and Supreme Court nominee are also cited as reasons for the split.
"[Trump] moved. He, not me," said Schumer. "He moved so far over to the right that it's virtually impossible to work with him." The pair last spoke on Jan. 24, according to Schumer.
President Trump has suggested working with Democrats on health care going forward, but Politico writes "lawmakers and strategists wonder whether Trump missed his best shot at a productive relationship."
And when it comes to speaking with Trump, Schumer only has nine words: "Right now there's not much to talk about, okay?" Jeva Lange
Italian state police have arrested 34 members of a Sardinian crime organization for attempting to steal the corpse of famous automaker Enzo Ferrari in order to blackmail his family, CNN reports. The gangsters' plot was extraordinarily complicated and their capture involved helicopters and parachute regiment officers.
Ferrari died in 1988 at the age of 90. His body is entombed above-ground in the San Cataldo cemetery in Modena, in central Italy, where it rests behind an iron gate. His legacy lives on, as his company continues to build some of the world's fastest and most expensive cars.