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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

Go deeper

Scoop: Gina Haspel threatened to resign over plan to install Kash Patel as CIA deputy

CIA Director Gina Haspel. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

CIA Director Gina Haspel threatened to resign in early December after President Trump cooked up a hasty plan to install loyalist Kash Patel, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), as her deputy, according to three senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the matter.

Why it matters: The revelation stunned national security officials and almost blew up the leadership of the world's most powerful spy agency. Only a series of coincidences — and last minute interventions from Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone — stopped it.

Updated 8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden says, "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution — Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan — Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.

John Weaver, Lincoln Project co-founder, acknowledges “inappropriate” messages

John Weaver aboard John McCain's campaign plane in February 2000. Photo: Robert Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images)

John Weaver, a veteran Republican operative who co-founded the Lincoln Project, declared in a statement to Axios on Friday that he sent “inappropriate,” sexually charged messages to multiple men.

  • “To the men I made uncomfortable through my messages that I viewed as consensual mutual conversations at the time: I am truly sorry. They were inappropriate and it was because of my failings that this discomfort was brought on you,” Weaver said.
  • “The truth is that I'm gay,” he added. “And that I have a wife and two kids who I love. My inability to reconcile those two truths has led to this agonizing place.”