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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

China is developing 500 smart cities — almost half the worldwide total, and more than 10 times North America's figure.

Why it matters: China's smart cities signal the country's strengths not only in technology and infrastructure, but in implementation.

Details: In Canada and the U.S., smart cities face obstacles including skepticism of Big Tech, privacy concerns, outdated infrastructure, and the difficulty of aligning stakeholders.

  • The U.S. is developing 40 smart cities, less than 4% of the globe's total.
  • In the meantime, over 80 cities and counties in the U.S. are suing the FCC over new rules designed to accelerate the buildout of America's 5G infrastructure, which is expected to be the backbone of advanced internet-of-things technology.
  • Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs is attempting to transform a neighborhood in Toronto into "the most innovative district in the world," but hurdles including protests and lawsuits have delayed plans by 6 months, and construction hasn’t begun.

Meanwhile, China's political system and extraordinary rate of rural-to-urban migration work together to fuel the country's full-speed advance.

  • China's urbanization offers opportunities to deploy advanced technologies.
    • China owns over 60% of the globe's 1.5 billion cellular connections that use the most promising IoT technology standard.
    • In Shanghai's Jing'an District, China Telecom has installed more than 500,000 sensors — on everything from fire hydrants to manholes.
    • Hangzhou's smart city technologies have reportedly increased traffic speeds by 15% and reduced ambulance arrival time by 50%.
  • But China's sensors and cameras also create a data dragnet, offering China's surveillance state unprecedented omniscience.
    • China has an estimated 200 million surveillance cameras, while the U.S. has 50 million.

The bottom line: When it comes to building smart city infrastructure, China is at a clear advantage, as many of North America's greatest obstacles are irrelevant for the Chinese government.

Graham Allison is the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he has taught for five decades.

Go deeper

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
9 mins ago - Health

When vaccine hesitancy becomes political

Data: CDC and New York Times; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

The counties with the most vaccine-hesitant residents generally also voted for Donald Trump in 2020 by large margins, whereas the counties with the lowest levels of hesitancy generally also had fewer Trump voters.

Why it matters: Your politics don't have anything to do with whether you're vulnerable to the coronavirus if you remain unvaccinated.

24 mins ago - Technology

States court tech money even as they bash companies

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Some of the country's fastest-growing states are publicly attacking the tech industry's business practices on one hand while courting its investment on the other.

Why it matters: Attracting technology companies is a holy grail for economic development because they bring high-paying jobs and prestige to aspiring tech hubs. But that project is now colliding with some state leaders' efforts to rein in tech companies' growing power.

Minnesota governor denounces alleged police violence against media

Law enforcement officers pepper spray freelance photographer Tim Evans (L) as he identifies himself a working journalist outside the Brooklyn Center police station on Friday. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Gov. Tim Walz (D) spoke out Sunday over allegations that journalists covering unrest in the Twin Cities suburb of Brooklyn Center have endured police violence, telling CBS Minnesota: "Apologies are not enough, it just cannot happen."

Why it matters: Since violations of press freedoms came to national attention last year, with reports of journalists being arrested and assaulted while covering anti-racism protests, violent encounters with law enforcement seem to have become the norm.

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