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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Silicon Valley's tech companies have a new argument in the unfolding debate over their size and power: We're better than the Chinese competition.

Why it matters: Washington is concerned about both China's rise and the tech giants' power. Now the companies are trying to use the former to defuse the latter, as Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg did this week.

What they're saying:

  • “So I think you have this question from a policy perspective, which is, do we want American companies to be exporting across the world?,” said Zuckerberg in an interview with Recode published Wednesday. “Because I think that the alternative, frankly, is going to be the Chinese companies.” Zuckerberg's comment was in response to a question about whether he fears calls to break up Facebook.
  • “I think this is worthy of some debate,” top Senate Intelligence Committee Democrat Mark Warner said last month to Axios, speaking about breaking up Facebook and other large tech players. “One of my hesitancies, though, would be if we kneecapped American companies and they were simply replaced by Chinese tech companies. These are global companies now with global reach and we should tread softly.”

Zuckerberg told Recode that Chinese tech companies don’t share “values” with Silicon Valley. “I think you can bet that if the government hears word that it’s election interference or terrorism, I don’t think Chinese companies are going to wanna cooperate as much and try to aid the national interest there,” he said.

The big picture: Major Chinese internet companies like Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu and JD.com are growing fast. In the hardware business, supply chains are global and U.S. and Chinese interests are often interconnected. In the software and social media worlds, China has formed its own homegrown alternatives to Western powerhouses like Google and Facebook, keeping the industries more separated.

  • “You couldn't — you couldn't do this in China, right? Or, what you did in 10 years,” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Ak.) asked Zuckerberg earlier this year about his development of Facebook. Zuckerberg replied: “Well — well, senator, there are — there are some very strong Chinese Internet companies.”

Yes, but: Chinese tech companies could struggle to succeed globally — even without American competition — because there is so little trust that they'll keep customer data private from the government.

  • “It’s probably right that you don’t want to create the opportunity for them, but they have significant obstacles to penetrating a global market,” said Jim Lewis, a former State Department official who is now a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Go deeper: The NYT's Farhad Manjoo argued Wednesday that the way for the U.S. to meet Chinese tech's challenge is for the government to fund more research.

Go deeper

38 seconds ago - World

Honduras elects first female president

Honduran President-elect Xiomara Castro, of the Libertad y Refundacion (Libre) Party, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Sunday. Photo: Inti Ocon/Getty Images

Former Honduras first lady Xiomara Castro was elected as the country's president after the ruling party conceded defeat in the country's elections on Tuesday night, per AP.

Why it matters: The democratic socialist and her Libre Party have broken a 12-year run for the conservative National Party, which U.S. prosecutors alleged fostered a "narco-state," note Axios' Latinos' Marina E. Franco and Russell Contreras.

Food delivery "ghost kitchens" face major obstacles

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The growing popularity of food delivery has given rise to startups that open "ghost kitchens" — kitchens in warehouses or trailers that prepare food solely for delivery and have no option to dine in.

  • But they can come with a whole host of problems.

The big picture: The concept of "ghost kitchens" has been dubbed the next big thing in the future of services, with high profile backers like Uber founder Travis Kalanick. But these kitchens can be hard to run or unsafe.

3 hours ago - Health

Federal judge blocks Biden vaccine mandate for health workers

President Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant at the White House on Nov. 29. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers at federally funded facilities nationwide.

The big picture: The order comes one day after a federal judge in Missouri halted the mandate, which has a Jan. 4 deadline, in 10 states.