Trump in the China Shop

Gideon Rachman

Inflatable roosters, modeled on President Trump for the Year of the Rooster, Jiaxing, China, January 2017

A tilt toward protectionism under the Trump administration would mean that the most important field of US-Chinese cooperation—trade and investment—would turn into an area of rivalry. With both strategic and economic competition mounting, the United States and China would be locked into an increasingly overt struggle for power in the Pacific. If Taiwan becomes the trigger for a sharp downturn in US-Chinese relations, it will in many ways be an avoidable crisis. By contrast, a crisis over North Korea during Trump’s presidency may be unavoidable.

Russia: The Conspiracy Trap

Masha Gessen

Russian Army clothes store, Moscow, Russia, 2016

The dream fueling the Russia frenzy is that it will eventually create a dark enough cloud of suspicion around Trump that Congress will find the will and the grounds to impeach him. More likely, the Russia allegations will not bring down Trump. Meanwhile, while Russia continues to dominate the front pages, Trump will continue waging war on immigrants, cutting funding for everything that’s not the military, assembling his cabinet of deplorables.

Berenice Abbott: Rebels of Paris

Prudence Peiffer

Jean Cocteau (French, 1889-1963)

The photographs in Berenice Abbott’s Paris Portraits 1925-1930 document how international the community of modernists was between the wars, and are evidence of Abbott’s first experiments with lighting, angles, and equipment. The portraits’ sparseness only amplifies the ambition they contain—of both subjects and photographer. One of the pleasures of a great portrait is the unending present exposure it offers us, as if the sitter is just about to reveal something. Abbott’s client list is dizzying.

Master of the Unreal

Christopher Benfey

Hercules Segers: Rocky Landscape with a Man Walking to the Right: First Version, circa 1625-1630

An air of unreality hangs over the astonishing exhibition of seventeenth-century Dutch etcher and painter Hercules Segers. One is grateful for the careful documentation in this cautiously staged exhibition, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, of Segers’s working methods. Examples of needles, metal punches, copper plates, and the rest of the etcher’s difficult trade are on view, along with explanations of the steps required to produce an individual image. Now we have a clearer idea of how Segers cropped and recycled his imagery, and how the accidents sometimes produced by his exacting methods were seemingly welcomed.

Cocktails in a Cruel Country

Francine Prose

Michael Tucker, Matthew Broderick, Wallace Shawn and Jill Eikenberry in Wallace Shawn’s Evening at the Talk House, directed by Scott Elliott, Off-Broadway at The New Group, 2017

Wallace Shawn’s new play, Evening at the Talk House, brings us into an all-too-plausible near future in which vicious beatings (occasionally administered by one’s friends) have become commonplace, a world in which it is understood that committing political murders and selecting targets for long-distance killing are socially useful and practical part-time jobs: relatively effortless and even necessary ways to supplement one’s income.

US Immigration: Waiting for Chaos

Walter Pincus

Cuban migrants stranded on their way to the US, Casa Nazareth shelter in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, February 16, 2017

Trump’s recent efforts to use blunt executive power to close our borders and prepare the way for deporting large numbers of undocumented immigrants are confronting far-reaching problems. Not only is there opposition from federal judges, the business sector, civil liberties groups, and others; there is also a major roadblock from another quarter: our already broken system of immigration laws and immigration courts.

Yale: The History We Can’t Erase

Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

Students protesting at Yale, April, 2016

What’s inarguable is that our country is now led by a man who received millions fewer votes than his opponent, but won the presidency thanks to an institution—the Electoral College—that was set up to protect the interests and ideas of slave-owning states like John Calhoun’s. We are, in 2017, still waging the battles of the nineteenth century.

The Reichstag Warning

Timothy Snyder

The shell of the Reichstag after the fire, Berlin, Germany, 1933

The aspiring tyrants of today have learned the lesson of the Reichstag fire of 1933: that acts of terror—real or fake, provoked or accidental—can provide the occasion to deal a death blow to democracy. The most consequential example is Russia, so admired by Donald Trump, but the use of terrorist threats to create or consolidate authoritarian regimes has become increasingly frequent worldwide.

Submerged in the Cosmic Kingdom

David Shulman

A row of Guge stupas near Tholing, in the tenth-century Kashmir-informed style, 2009

Guge was once home to a major inner-Asian dynasty whose artists and craftsmen produced a plethora of masterpieces over some five centuries—including some large-scale murals and exquisitely carved and painted sculptures depicting Buddhist visions of the cosmos and its deities. Little known in the West largely because of Guge’s inaccessible location, the works have now been richly and systematically documented in the photographer and art historian Peter van Ham’s astonishing new book, Guge: Ages of Gold.

Our Animal History

Jenny Uglow

Pressed fish specimen (Zeus faber) collected by Carl Linnaeus, 1758

The fascinating exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in London, “Making Nature,” investigates our long history of trying to comprehend the wealth of the animal world, while also making us dizzily aware that we are, after all, animals ourselves. One of the joys of these darkened rooms is the way that works of art share space with the scientific exhibits, often making the latter themselves seem fantastical.