Sep 20, 2018

A new era of U.S.–China competition calls for new rules

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Even as the U.S.–China trade war escalates, the two powers are fighting a greater battle at the frontiers of technology. With its “Made in China 2025” strategy — targeting sectors like aviation, high-speed rail, electric vehicles and agricultural machinery — China aspires to build firms that will not only replace foreign technology and products domestically but supplant them internationally.

Why it matters: In 2018 U.S.–China relations have entered a period of profound strategic drift, a pivotal moment in the transition from cooperation to competition. It’s an open question whether this split will spawn a cold war or even a military confrontation — prospects some policymakers are now considering for the first time — but there’s no doubt that a wider economic war is now upon us, to be waged over ownership of the technological innovations that will drive the 21st century.

The details: The U.S. and China maintain the largest trading relationship in the world, despite the escalating trade war, and the two countries have recently collaborated on efforts to rein in the North Korean nuclear weapons program, though with some skepticism from the Trump Administration. Some room remains to cooperate across elements of the G20 global financial agenda and on efforts to combat climate change.

But over the last half decade or so, the relationship has lost many of its traditional U.S. supporters, especially within the business community, which fears that China will achieve a position of global technological supremacy through the massive allocation of state resources, intellectual property theft and industrial espionage.

The other side: China sees pursuing these state-driven strategies as essential to its national interests, believing that the U.S. will prevent it from acquiring such capabilities in an open and competitive market. Xi Jinping’s recent statements on China’s artificial intelligence strategy echo these concerns as well, concluding that without innovation, adaptation and self-reliance, China’s long-term economic and national security would be under fundamental threat.

The bottom line: The shift in the U.S.–China relationship is a structural phenomenon, the result of economic, military and technological gains in China that constitute a threat to American dominance — and further reinforced by their radically different political, cultural and ideological systems. This cleavage goes far deeper that the current trade war. Policymakers in both Washington and Beijing will have to decide whether to let the relationship destabilize further or to agree on rules to govern, or at least guide, this new era of strategic competition.

Kevin Rudd is a former prime minister of Australia and the current president of the Asia Society Policy Institute.

Go deeper: More on the U.S.–China tech war and China’s rise under Xi

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Trump touts press briefing "ratings" as U.S. coronavirus case surge

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

President Trump sent about a half-dozen tweets on Sunday touting the high television ratings that his coronavirus press briefings have received, selectively citing a New York Times article that compared them to "The Bachelor" and "Monday Night Football."

Why it matters: The president has been holding daily press briefings in the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, but news outlets have struggled with how to cover them live — as Trump has repeatedly been found to spread misinformation and contradict public health officials.

World coronavirus updates: Total cases surge to over 700,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now than more than 700,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 32,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Saturday he would issue a "strong" travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 41 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 704,095 — Total deaths: 33,509 — Total recoveries: 148,824.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 132,637 — Total deaths: 2,351 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: The first federal prisoner to die from coronavirus was reported from a correctional facility in Louisiana on Sunday.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "really panicked" people
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reported 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reported almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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