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With school out and a long July 4th weekend ahead, America is officially on vacation. But the world continues to churn.

The Russia-Ukraine war drags on. And China pushes forward in its pursuit of mastery of advanced technologies like artificial intelligence.

A cross-country flight or lazy Sunday afternoon lounging on the hammock are perfect opportunities to take a break from the daily avalanche of news, zoom out, and look at the world that is being forged.

With those idle moments in mind, here are three books that we think would help make you look like the smartest person in the room when you return to the office next week.

Spies and Lies: How China’s Greatest Covert Operations Fooled the World

By Alex Joske (Hardie Grant, 2022)

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The rise of China is the single greatest geopolitical challenge facing the United States. Yet China’s bureaucracy and clandestine means of influence largely remain opaque to outsiders. In Spies and Lies, Australian analyst Alex Joske takes us into the world of China’s overseas influence operations conducted by the shadowy Ministry of State Security or MSS.

He introduces us to a series of characters, including “Yu Enguang,” who served as co-chair of the China Fund, an ostensibly reform-minded organization funded by George Soros. Through open-source research, Joske discovers that “Yu Enguang” was a pseudonym for Yu Fang — an undercover senior official of the MSS.

The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five-Year Crack-Up of the Republican Party

By Dana Milbank (Doubleday, 2022)

How did the party of Lincoln and Reagan become another Donald Trump property? In The Destructionists, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank argues the transition wasn’t overnight.

He traces the Republican Party’s twenty-five-year journey into MAGA cult, beginning with Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America in 1994. Milbank takes us back to the first Clinton administration and the false claims about the death of White House aide Vince Foster fueled by big money donor Richard Mellon Scaife and propagated by conservative media figures Rush Limbaugh and Newsmax founder Christopher Ruddy.

Milbank reminds us of how conspiracy theories originating in fringe outlets like Human Events would make their way to more respectable platforms like the Wall Street Journal. The rot, in other words, began long before there was Facebook and long before Trump was a Republican contender.

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer

By Kai Bird and Martin J Sherwin (Random House, 2005)

Christopher Nolan’s long-anticipated “Oppenheimer” film opens in theaters on July 21. The film is based on this Pulitzer-prize-winning biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Decades of research married with a powerful narrative make “American Prometheus” a masterful account of the great physicist. The book explores Oppenheimer’s contradictions and conflicts. Known as the “father of the atomic bomb,” Oppenheimer was also a committed leftist troubled by the potential post-war use of nuclear weapons. For these views, he would pay a great price during the McCarthy era, losing his security clearance. This definitive biography of Oppenheimer is a cautionary tale on the pursuit of scientific research for military aims — highly relevant in the context of the rise of AI.

The Globely News team tracks the leaders, states, networks, ideologies, and technologies that are reshaping the world order. From AI and electric vehicles to the rise of China, we've got you covered.

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