Skip to content
Subscriber Only
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.