China’s tech giants want to go global. Just one thing might stand in their way.

The ambitions charted in recent government plans are far-ranging: to excel in areas like 5G mobile technology, seed breeding, and robotics by 2020 and to become a world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030..Data: OECD All of this has prompted considerable anxiety in the United States..Citing concerns about mercantilist market controls and industrial espionage, the Trump administration has plunged into a trade war with China..In October, Vice President Mike Pence accused the Chinese government of perpetrating “the wholesale theft of American technology.” To some extent, American talk about a technological cold war conceals a broad perception gap..While US lawmakers see in China’s scientific aspirations an acute threat, Chinese commentators see a lingering insecurity..To them, the ambitions staked out on Electronics Street have not been fully realized..Government white papers and state press reports may project bravado, but in more intimate settings Chinese leaders lament that the country has spent much and gotten little to show for it..Yes, China funds big science projects, but that is not the same as achieving serious scientific breakthroughs or launching a product that reshapes the global market, like the iPhone..Even as China’s elite universities climb the world rankings, the country can claim only one Nobel laureate in the sciences who did not do his prize-winning work abroad..Yet there are signs that this may be changing..While a wave of homegrown Nobels may still be a way off, the country has seen an explosion of business innovation..The country’s powerful tech companies, along with a few ambitious startups, are now shaping business models in Silicon Valley—and driving debate over internet controls and surveillance in the process.. More details

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