Jul 10, 2019

China is pulling ahead of North America on smart cities

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Details: In Canada and the U.S., smart cities face obstacles including skepticism of Big Tech, privacy concerns, outdated infrastructure, and the difficulty of aligning stakeholders.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

China's carbon emissions may peak as soon as 2021

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Carbon emissions from China could peak as soon as 2021, which is nine years before the voluntary deadline in their Paris agreement pledge, a new peer-reviewed study finds.

Why it matters: China is by far the world's largest carbon emitter. The trajectory of its emissions affect whether the world has any chance of meeting the Paris temperature goals — or, more likely, how much they're overshot.

Go deeperArrowJul 30, 2019

2020 Democrats punt on Trump's China tariffs

Photo: Teh Eng Koon/AFP via Getty Images

None of the leading Democratic presidential contenders said they would immediately drop President Trump's tariffs on China if elected president, despite criticizing his moves against Beijing as reckless.

Driving the news: Axios asked each campaign whether they would get rid of the tariffs on day 1, and none gave a clear answer. The campaigns said they would either leave the existing tariffs in place or conduct a review of the tariff policy upon entering office.

Go deeperArrowJul 28, 2019

The age of winner-take-all cities

Data: Bureau of Economic Analysis; Interactive: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

For all the talk of American cities undergoing a renaissance, economic success has been concentrated in a few standout metropolises while the rest either struggle to keep up or fall further behind.

Why it matters: This winner-take-all dynamic has led to stark inequalities and rising tensions — both inside and outside city limits — that are helping to drive our politics off the rails.

Go deeperArrowJul 10, 2019