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Specific incidents can sometimes reveal much larger truths. This would seem to be the case regarding recent revelations that the Chinese have been eavesdropping on U.S. President Donald Trump’s less-than-secure phone calls and using the information gathered as part of an elaborate plot to influence the president. If true, this story — which the president has denied — is not only a testament to Trump’s attachment to his smartphones and his casual disregard for established security procedures. It also highlights three critical issues in the intensifying U.S.-China competition.

The first is the sophistication and aggressiveness of Chinese influence operations. There is nothing particularly unusual or impressive about the espionage dimension of the story: Listening in on foreign leaders’ mobile phone calls is what spy agencies, including American spy agencies, do. The New York Times reported Russian agents have been listening in on Trump as well.

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