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The big idea

U.S., allies toughen their tone on China ahead of G-20 summit

A month has passed since President Biden promised China “we are not seeking a new Cold War.” But with barely one week before the Group of 20 summit in Rome, America and its allies are taking a significantly sharper tone with Beijing on issues like national security and trade.

Not that Biden will be able to look into Chinese President Xi Jinping’s eyes and deliver the tougher message in person. The Chinese leader has let it be known he won’t be traveling to Italy or to the subsequent COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

Increased tensions between China and the United States have been a feature of bilateral ties for decades, each now seeing the other as its only real global rival. Still, recent developments suggest the difficult relationship may be entering a new, more volatile phase.

New, more volatile phase

At the Financial Times, Demetri Sevastopulo reported Wednesday that China “conducted two hypersonic weapons tests over the summer, raising US concerns that Beijing is gaining ground in the race to develop a new generation of arms.”

China has denied the report. Asked Wednesday whether he was concerned about the development of such nuclear-capable weapons, Biden replied: “Yes.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the US raises its concerns “through diplomatic channels.”

Meanwhile, in Washington, R. Nicholas Burns, the seasoned diplomat Biden has picked as ambassador to China, called Beijing an “aggressor” in its relations with India, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan, and accused China of “an intimidation campaign” against Australia and Lithuania.

In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Burns bluntly accused China of “genocide” against its Muslim minority Uyghur population, of “abuses” in Tibet, of “smothering” Hong Kong’s autonomy, and of “bullying” Taiwan.

Burns, who served for decades under presidents of both parties, also warned that Beijing was “blasting past” its stated goal of keeping a minimum nuclear deterrent. And he invited lawmakers to do more to help Taiwan protect itself from the mainland, including through increased arms sales.

Still, the diplomat said, the United States need not view Beijing as an “Olympian Power” and must find ways to cooperate on issues like climate — China is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases — and nuclear programs in North Korea or Iran.

WTO review

On yet another front, America, Australia, Britain, Canada, the European Union and Japan reportedly took advantage of a World Trade Organization trade policy review of China — a required, periodic assessment of one WTO member by others — to denounce Beijing.

At the South China Morning Post, Finbarr Bermingham reported the other countries accused China “of a laundry list of trade felonies and economic bullying,” in a sharp departure from a more conciliatory mood at Beijing’s previous review, in 2018.

At Reuters, Stephanie Nebehay reported, citing “trade sources,” that the U.S. said “China’s industrial policies ‘skew the playing field’ against imported goods and services, as well as their foreign providers, and that Washington would pursue all means to secure reforms.”

“In addition to industrial subsidies, other ‘unfair trade practices’ include preferential treatment for state enterprises, data restrictions, inadequate enforcement of intellectual property rights and cyber theft, U.S. charge d'affaires David Bisbee told the World Trade Organization.”

“Both the United States and Canada denounced alleged ‘economic coercion’ by China against other WTO member states who speak out against its practices.

‘We also cannot ignore reports of China’s use of forced labour in several sectors,’ Bisbee said, in an apparent reference to activists' allegations regarding ethnic Uyghurs held in detention in Xinjiang, a charge that Beijing denies.”

Japan and India also complained, Stephanie reported. Australia and Canada accused China of pressuring importers not to buy their products in retaliation for diplomatic disputes, Finbarr reported.

At Bloomberg News, Bryce Baschuk reported “[t]he friction centers on Beijing’s harmful industrial policies including market access limitations, investment restrictions, massive subsidies that lead to excess capacity, and preferential treatment for state-owned enterprises.

“‘China’s industrial policies skew the playing field against imported goods and services and foreign manufacturers and services suppliers through an array of supporting measures,’ Bisbee said. ‘China uses these measures to secure dominance in global markets, which undermines U.S. economic interests.’”

The WTO session could be a warm up for the G-20, a primarily economic forum whose members account for 80 percent of global gross domestic product, 75 percent of global trade and 60 percent of the world’s population.

Earlier this week, the New York Times’ David Sanger thoughtfully grouped the past few weeks of rising tensions.

“[T]he Chinese Air Force running sorties inside Taiwan’s air identification zone; Beijing expanding its space program, launching three more astronauts to its space station and accelerating its tests of hypersonic missiles meant to defeat American missile defenses; and the release of a top Huawei executive for two Canadians and two Americans in what looked like a prisoner swap. At the same time, the U.S. announced it would provide nuclear submarine technology to Australia, with the prospect that its subs could pop up, undetected, along the Chinese coast. It didn’t escape Chinese commentators that the last time the United States shared that kind of technology was in 1958, when Britain adopted naval reactors as part of the effort to counter Russia’s expanding nuclear arsenals.

“And just before the announcement of the Australia deal, satellite photographs revealed new Chinese nuclear missile fields, whose existence Beijing has not explained.”

What's happening now

Bill Clinton is home from the hospital

After being hospitalized last week for an infection of the bloodstream, the 75-year-old former president says he's back home and on the road to recovery, Mariana Alfaro reports. “I’m really glad to be back home,” Clinton, 75, said in a Wednesday night video as he stood in front of the Chappaqua, N.Y., woods. “I’m doing great, enjoying this beautiful fall weather.”

D.C. Council member running for attorney general

“Kenyan R. McDuffie, a Democrat who has represented Ward 5 since 2012, announced Thursday that he is relinquishing his seat and running for D.C. attorney general next year,” Michael Brice-Saddler reports. He's the second candidate to enter the race to replace current AG Karl A. Racine (D).

Climate change threatens global security, White House, intelligence agencies and Pentagon say

In documentss released Thursday, the groups concluded that “climate change will exacerbate long-standing threats to global security,” Shane Harris and Michael Birnbaum report.

  • “The reports show a deepening concern within the U.S. security establishment that the shifts unleashed by climate change can reshape U.S. strategic interests, offer new opportunities to rivals such as China, and increase instability in nuclear states such as North Korea and Pakistan.”

WHO leadership warns pandemic could ‘easily drag on deep into 2022’

“The Covid pandemic will ‘go on for a year longer than it needs to’ because poorer countries are not getting the vaccines they need, the World Health Organization (WHO) says,” BBC’s Naomi Grimley reports.

ASU police ask for misdemeanor charges for activists who confronted Sinema in bathroom

“The Arizona State University Police Department is asking the Maricopa County Attorney's Office to charge four people with misdemeanors after they recorded themselves protesting against Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, interrupting a class she was teaching and continuing to follow and record Sinema in the bathroom on campus,” the Arizona Republic’s Athena Ankrah reports.

Wildfire smoke harms more in the Eastern U.S. than West, study says

Researchers said the disparity is due to higher population densities in the east. “Smoke is not just a western problem. We think there might be a lack of awareness in the East because you’re not in proximity to these large wildfires and they don’t really impact your day-to-day,” said Katelyn O’Dell, lead author of the study and postdoctoral research scientist at George Washington University.

Britain to check social media, medical records of gun license applicants

Just over two months after Britain’s first mass shooting in more than a decade, London is ramping up background checks for gun license applicants. "From Nov. 1, people hoping to get a gun license must agree to share their confidential information with authorities. They will also be required to submit a form, signed off on by a physician, as part of the application process. Doctors will have to pass on any health concerns when the license is up for renewal, as well as alert police to potential signs that an applicant may pose security threat,” Rachel Pannett reports.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

The consequences to health of climate change

Doctors say inaction on climate change imperils millions of lives

“Climate change is set to become the ‘defining narrative of human health,’ a top medical journal warned Wednesday — triggering food shortages, deadly disasters and disease outbreaks that would dwarf the toll of the coronavirus. But aggressive efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions from human activities could avert millions of unnecessary deaths, according to the analysis from more than 100 doctors and health experts,” Sarah Kaplan reports.

  • “The Lancet study is just the latest salvo from health professionals demanding a swift end to burning fossil fuels and other planet-warming activities.”
  • “The death toll from climate change will outstrip that of the coronavirus, the scientists warned — unless drastic action is taken to avert further warming and adapt to changes underway.

Today is Latina Equal Pay Day. Latinas are still the lowest paid group in the U.S.

“Latinas had to work, on average, nearly 22 months to earn what White men did in 12 months, because they typically make 57 cents for every dollar a White man makes,” The Lily's Ingrid Cruz reports.

… and beyond

Can Biden reach rural America?

Has Biden adequately promoted the benefits his plans could have for rural voters? the Kansas City Star’s Bryan Lowry and Alex Roarty asked development strategists and Democrats — they say no.

“Even if Biden’s proposed agenda would help non-metropolitan areas, Democrats say voters in the region aren’t yet responding to it. The substance is there, they say, but not the message.”

“We always lose the messaging war,” former Democratic senator from North Dakota Heidi Heitkamp told the paper. “And we need to get better at it.”

During rescue effort last year, Fed ethics office warned officials to curb unnecessary trading

“But the recommendation, which was confirmed by a person who saw the email, did not go far enough to prevent a trading scandal that is now engulfing the Fed and being leveraged against its chair, Jerome H. Powell, as the White House mulls whether to reappoint him before his leadership term expires early next year,” the New York Times’s Jeanna Smialek reports.

The Biden agenda

The battle to lower prescription drug costs

Lowering prescription drug prices may fail, again

‘To proponents, defeat after defeat speaks solely to the power of the pharmaceutical industry and its attendant lobbyists," writes the Times’s Jonathan Weisman. “But opponents say it reflects the complexity of the issue. Once lawmakers realize they could actually secure government price negotiations, they see how problematic that could be. ‘If anyone thinks this is the easy political route for me, that’s just laughable,’  said [Rep. Scott] Peters [D-Calif.], who has endured scorn and pressure from his Democratic colleagues but whose San Diego district includes almost 1,000 biotechnology companies and 68,000 jobs directly tied to pharmaceutical work.”

Biden launches review that could ban copper mining in this area

The review, launched Wednesday, will analyze mining near Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. “The analysis’s findings will influence whether the administration decides to withdraw more than 225,000 acres of federal lands and waters in the Rainy River Watershed — which includes Boundary Waters — from mining for 20 years,” Darryl Fears reports.

New billionaire taxes, stock buybacks could be on the table

Biden’s advisers said that they are pursuing a range of ideas that could still raise substantial sums of money from corporations and the rich, including a tax on billionaires’ assets that would resemble a more modest version of the wealth tax championed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.),” Tony Romm and Jeff Stein report.

The permanently temporary 2021 economy, visualized

“Twenty-one months after the country’s first confirmed case of the coronavirus, the U.S. economy remains rocked by conflicting forces, with businesses and households struggling to adjust to what many hoped would be a temporary disruption.” Our colleagues break down what’s happening in the economy in 5 charts.

Hot on the left

Manchin says he isn't threatening to leave Democrats

After Mother Jones’s David Corn scooped yesterday that Manchin is considering leaving the Democratic Party, the senator said he would be change lanes to independent — but caucus with the Democrats — “if I'm an embarrassment" to the party.

But Manchin also told the Hill the reporting was “simply untrue” and that he has “no plan to leave the Democratic Party and has not threatened to do so,” Steve Clemons reports.

“What is true,” Manchin told the Hill, “is that I have told the president, Chuck Schumer, and even the whole Caucus that if it is ‘embarrassing’ to them to have a moderate, centrist Democrat in the mix and if it would help them publicly, I could become an Independent — like Bernie — and then they could explain some of this to the public saying it’s complicated to corral these two independents, Bernie and me.”

From an NBC news Congress reporter:

Hot on the right

A new Trump venture

Trump announced Wednesday he's launching his own social media platform: Truth Social. Still barred from Twitter and Facebook, the former president said in a statement that the company was created to “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.”

“The network is set to launch in beta form in November and be available in full next year,” Bryan Pietsch reports.

Today in Washington

Biden and Harris will deliver remarks at 11:55 a.m. for the 10th Anniversary celebration of the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.

At 8 p.m., Biden will participate in a CNN town hall.

In closing

Late night hosts pounced on the news of Facebook's impending rebrand, kindly offering the company some new name ideas. A few from Stephen Colbert: Aunt Brenda’s Three-Paragraph Rant-a-torium, Best Fun Times America Website and the Washington Football Team.

Trevor Noah questioned the move:

“I don’t know if this is a good idea. I mean, Facebook is one of those iconic brands like Hiroshima and Ted Bundy — do you really want to lose that name recognition?”

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.