Diplomatic visits and tension with China
Two meetings — between the U.S. House speaker and the president of Taiwan and between the leaders of France and China — are highlighting the West’s delicate diplomacy with China amid rising tensions.
In China: President Emmanuel Macron of France traveled to Beijing to “relaunch” a strategic partnership between Europe and China. He also plans to urge Xi Jinping, China’s leader, to play a “major role” in bringing peace to Ukraine.
Macron, who will meet with Xi today, is determined to carve out a more conciliatory position toward China than the American one and to convince Xi to speak with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.
If the French leader can exploit daylight between China and Russia over Russia’s war in Ukraine — which appears unlikely given the two countries’ declaration of a “no-limits” friendship — he will have achieved something that is broadly in America’s strategic interest: a faster end to the war and a weakening of the Chinese-Russian bond.
In the U.S.: Speaker Kevin McCarthy met with Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s president, yesterday in California, becoming the most senior elected official to meet with a Taiwanese president on American soil since Washington established diplomatic relations with Beijing.
In some ways, the meeting was a backtrack by McCarthy, who had said he — like his predecessor, Nancy Pelosi — would visit Taiwan as a show of defiance to China. But Pelosi’s visit last year sparked a crisis, with China holding days of live-fire military exercises near Taiwan.
Instead, McCarthy and Tsai opted for a meeting in the U.S. that was considered the less risky option. Leaders in Washington and Taipei are trying to shore up Taiwan’s ties with the U.S. while avoiding steps that might prompt retaliation from Beijing.
China’s Russia stance: China’s ambassador to the E.U. said yesterday that critics had misinterpreted his country’s relationship with Russia, and he suggested their ties might not be as limitless as their leaders once declared.
What comes next for Trump?
Donald Trump made history on Tuesday, when he became the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges.
- Finland’s Entry to NATO: The Nordic country officially became the military alliance’s 31st member, in what amounts to a strategic defeat for President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
- Drone Warfare: Using aerial drones to spot the enemy and direct artillery fire has become a staple of war for Ukraine and Russia, especially in the fiercely contested city of Bakhmut.
- Killing of Pro-War Blogger: Russian authorities detained a suspect in the bombing that killed a popular military blogger in St. Petersburg and blamed Ukraine and Russian opposition activists for the attack.
- Counteroffensive Challenges: With powerful Western weapons and newly formed assault units, Ukraine is poised for a critical spring campaign. But overcoming casualties and keeping troops motivated will be difficult tests.
But the 34 felony charges, to which Trump pleaded not guilty, are just the beginning of a long and uncertain process. Any trial would probably come next year at the earliest, and Trump is expected to delay the proceedings, perhaps by filing a motion to dismiss the case or trying to change the venue where it is tried.
To convict Trump of a felony, prosecutors must show that Trump’s “intent to defraud” included an intent to commit or conceal a second crime. That turns on the untested question of whether a state prosecutor can invoke a federal crime even though he lacks jurisdiction to charge that crime himself.
What’s next? In the coming months, prosecutors and defense lawyers will exchange documents and evidence and file motions. The judge has set the next hearing in Trump’s case, when he will rule on motions, for Dec. 4. Prosecutors said they would like a trial to begin in early January 2024, but Trump’s lawyers have said that they are looking toward a date later in the spring.
Israeli police raid mosque
The Israeli police raided the most sensitive holy site in Jerusalem yesterday after Palestinians barricaded themselves inside, setting off a brief exchange of rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes.
The violence at the site — the Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City, known to Jews as the Temple Mount — led to the injuries of at least 37 Palestinians and two Israeli officers.
About two hours after the raid, armed groups in Gaza launched at least nine rockets toward Israel, but they were destroyed or landed in open fields, the Israeli military said. Israeli jets later carried out airstrikes on military sites in Gaza.
Context: Officials had been warning that the overlap of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish holiday of Passover, which began yesterday evening, could lead to clashes as more worshipers head to the site.
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The man behind the internet’s favorite outfits
Duy Tran, who is from Vietnam, has never been to the U.S., but his dresses have.
Tran’s clothes, which have gone viral for blending so-called Y2K aesthetics with tight silhouettes and ultra-sheer fabrics, have been worn by young celebrities like Bella Hadid, Olivia Rodrigo and Doja Cat.
But Tran has been largely invisible outside of Vietnam. He started his label, Fancí Club, in 2018 after dropping out of fashion school.
Beverly Nguyen, a Vietnamese American stylist in New York City, said she felt especially nostalgic, and proud, to see her culture reflected in Fancì Club’s outfits. “The silhouettes and colors remind me of my mom’s style in the early ’90s,” she said. “I love that the designs are rooted in nightlife culture that stays true to the city girl of Vietnam.”
Tran hopes to open a store in the United States. But he does not want to lose sight of his original customers: Vietnamese women. “I want them to know there is someone here making clothes for them,” he said.