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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

As part of the Made in China 2025 strategic initiative, China wants supremacy in key future technologies, including electric cars and autonomous vehicles.

The big picture: Waymo and other U.S. firms like Cruise and Zoox are far ahead in developing the technologies. But China could become the autonomous leader by 2025 because regulators there can pave the way for mass adoption of autonomous cars more quickly than their American counterparts.

What's happening: Baidu is leading China's autonomous efforts but when it comes to the tech they are 3-4 years behind their counterpart Google's Waymo. To catch up, Baidu launched an open-source development program called Apollo that executives say they want to be the “Android” of autonomous vehicles.

  • Apollo has already attracted more than 100 partners, including blue chippers like Microsoft, Nvidia, Intel, Mercedes-Benz and NXP.
  • The Chinese government's friendly regulatory approach to AI enables the collection of troves of data that are crucial inputs into algorithms at the heart of autonomous technology. (The approach may also allow for greater surveillance in the country.)

China is building a brand new city near Beijing called Xiongan that will feature high-tech infrastructure that allows autonomous cars to “talk to” their surroundings and to other vehicles. Xiongan could be China’s blueprint for other key cities.

What to watch: Baidu and other Chinese AV start-ups rely heavily on advanced R&D centers in Silicon Valley, where they employ hundreds of software engineers.

  • With new Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States rules, Chinese companies will likely face restrictions on investments into U.S.-based autonomous tech start-ups.
  • And top software talent in Silicon Valley might feel some reluctance to join Chinese companies.

Michael Dunne is the CEO of ZoZo Go, an investment advisory firm focusing on China and mobility, and the author of "American Wheels, Chinese Roads."

Go deeper

Drought, record heat wave in West tied to climate change

People on Folsom Lake in Granite Bay, California, U.S., June 16, 2021. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The prolonged and widespread heat wave in the West, along with the region's increasingly severe drought, is a sign of how climate change has already tilted the odds in favor of such extremes, studies show.

Why it matters: The rapidly growing Southwest, in particular, is also the nation's fastest-warming region. The combination of heat and drought could lead to a repeat, or even eclipse, the severity of 2020's wildfire season in California and other states.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

What to watch as infrastructure talks heat up

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A mix of Beltway action and extreme weather events have brought the fault lines in infrastructure talks and their planetary stakes into sharper focus.

Catch up fast: Senate Democratic leaders pledged to seek big climate measures in a multitrillion-dollar, Democrats-only package that faces a very narrow political path.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
3 hours ago - Sports

The sports stock market

Note: Michael Jordan's card is for baseball; Data: Alt; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Shohei Ohtani's trading card value has risen 781% since the start of 2021, the highest year-to-date return of any athlete on Alt, a sports card exchange that aims to bring more liquidity to alternative assets.

Why it matters: The trading card market is the closest thing we have to a stock market for sports.