Trump announces steel and aluminum tariffs as senior Chinese official visits Washington, D.C.


This morning, Axios sent its daily newsletter, with this opening sentence: “After a crazy 24 hours, sources close to President Trump say he is in a bad place — mad as hell about the internal chaos and the sense that things are unraveling.”

Then Trump tweeted: “Our Steel and Aluminum industries (and many others) have been decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries from around the world. We must not let our country, companies and workers be taken advantage of any longer. We want free, fair and SMART TRADE!”

After that, he announced — at a meeting with more than a dozen American steel and aluminum company chiefs — that he will place 25 percent and 10 percent tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, respectively.

  • China is one obvious target, but the tariffs will hit all countries that export steel and aluminum to the U.S.
  • The timing was a direct slap at China: Chief of the Leading Group for Financial and Economic Affairs Office and Xi Jinping confidant Liu He 刘鹤 was at the White House today, apparently in the hopes of talking the Trump administration out of a trade war. But the timing may not have been intentional: There have been so many scandals at the White House this week that my guess is that Trump announced the tariffs as a distraction.
  • “Investors appeared shaken by the news,” says the Washington Post: “The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell around 500 points, a loss of 2 percent, in early afternoon trading.”
  • Taiwan is another source of tension this week: Reuters reports that “China expressed anger on Thursday after the U.S. Senate passed a bill promoting closer U.S. ties with Taiwan, but the step drew praise from the self-ruled island, which pledged to deepen cooperation.”

For other reporting on steel and aluminum tariffs, please see the BBC, Washington Post, and New York Times (paywall).

Science fiction conference in Hong Kong

“Some of the world’s most interesting thought leaders from the world of science fiction, science, technology and media” will speak at Melon, a daylong conference on science fiction and the future, in Hong Kong on March 17.

How artificial intelligence might destroy the Communist Party

Wang Lixiong 王力雄 is one of the most interesting living Chinese writers. Today, Wall Street Journal reporter Yuan Li tweeted about her review of Wang’s new novel:

While people in the West debate about whether the internet and social media undermine democracy, a big question for many Chinese is whether AI strengthens the iron fists of autocrats. Wang Lixiong’s dystopian novel finds weakness in a digital dictatorship.

You can read the whole thing here (paywall).