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Opinion
Noah Smith

U.S. Tech Lead Over China May Not Matter

One country focuses on entertainment, the other on social control and military dominance.

We got you covered — and not in a good way.

We got you covered — and not in a good way.

Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Does the U.S. still hold a technological edge over China? For now, the answer is “yes.” U.S. export restrictions briefly threatened to put Huawei — arguably China’s top technology company — out of business, until the U.S. relented. That episode exposed holes in the Chinese tech ecosystem and demonstrated the value of having a broad, deep pool of specialized high-tech companies.

The U.S. has the leading research system, with the world’s best research universities, a network of top-notch national laboratories, government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and dominant companies such as Amazon, Intel and Alphabet that spend a great deal on R&D. The country continues to claim the lion’s share of Nobel Prizes, and most of the big breakthrough discoveries and inventions — CRISPR, deep learning, synthetic biology — originate in the U.S.