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Chinese President Xi Jinping has "China 2025." Now Peter Altmaier, Germany's economy minister, has introduced "National Industrial Strategy 2030."

The backdrop: European regulators yesterday blocked a mega rail merger between Germany's Siemens and France's Alstom despite strong support for the deal from leaders in Berlin and Paris who said it was necessary to fight off competition from China's state-owned rail giant, CRCC. Regulators said the deal would give the new giant a near-monopoly in European markets, where CRCC isn't even a major player at present.

  • However, critics say European "champions" are needed to compete globally in the coming decades.

As the FT's Ben Hall framed things on the World Weekly podcast: "[Altmaier] warned Germany and Europe risked being mere bystanders in the next industrial revolution unless states were able to protect technologically important companies or subsidize research and innovation. But is this protectionism in a 21st century high-tech disguise?”

  • One of Altmaier's proposals — a state investment fund to block takeovers of critical tech companies — "goes against many of the principals Germany has espoused up until now: a completely open free-market economy," the FT's Guy Chazan in Berlin pointed out on the podcast.
  • German political and business leaders were stunned by the 2016 purchase of German robotics firm Kuka by a Chinese company, Chazan said. They're also "absolutely paranoid about losing their global leadership in cars" as the market shifts toward electric vehicles. Thus, Altmaier is calling for a major battery cell factory in Europe.
  • Altmaier's fear: Europe, the "development laboratory of the world," will become the "workbench of our competitors."

What to watch: Axios Future Editor Steve LeVine points out that just as this debate is taking place, European antitrust regulators are taking aim at American tech giants, most notably Facebook. "Here you have the tension — between the antitrust impulse and the champions impulse," he says.

Go deeper ... Monopolies vs. China: Europe debates which presents a greater threat

Go deeper

19 mins ago - Health

Standardized testing becomes another pandemic victim

Photo: Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty

National standardized reading and math tests have been pushed from next year to 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: There’s mounting national evidence that students are suffering major setbacks this year, with a surge in the number of failing grades.

43 mins ago - World

European countries extend lockdowns

A medical worker takes a COVID-19 throat swab sample at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Photo by Maja Hitij via Getty

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

1 hour ago - Health

Africa CDC: Vaccines likely won't be available until Q2 of 2021

Africa CDC director Dr. John Nkengasong. Photo: Mohammed Abdu Abdulbaqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Africa may have to wait until the second quarter of 2021 to roll out vaccines, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said Thursday, according to the Associated Press.

Why it matters: “I have seen how Africa is neglected when drugs are available,” Nkengasong said.