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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

As tech companies get drawn into the deepening trade fight between the U.S. and China, sound bites are winning at the expense of a smarter understanding of the two nations' web of competition and cooperation.

The bottom line: Understanding where the U.S. is vis-à-vis China means accepting hard and competing truths. It's true that China would love its tech industry to take over more of the leadership and value the U.S. has in areas like chips, software and internet services. And it's equally true that the U.S. is utterly dependent on China.

"That complexity doesn’t translate well on a bumper sticker."
— Dean Garfield, head of Information Technology Industry, a trade group representing U.S. and global tech companies.

Where we are now: Facebook is the latest company to get caught up in the battle over China, with leading papers blasting headlines such as "Facebook Gave Data Access to Chinese Firm Flagged by U.S. Intelligence."

To be sure: That's true, but keep in mind these headlines could also be true...

  • "Google shares entire operating system with nearly every Chinese phone maker"
  • "Apple tells Chinese manufacturer exactly how to build its iPhone"

The fact is that Chinese companies are critical suppliers and partners to U.S. tech companies. Using Chinese manufacturing allows consumers around the globe to get the technology they want at prices they can afford, Garfield said.

  • "No one wants to pay $500 for a t-shirt or $10,000 for a phone," he said. Access to the giant Chinese market is also attractive to U.S. tech companies.

Reasons for concern: This dependence, though, is challenging.

"There is no doubt there are legitimate concerns — both national security and economic — related to China. The thing that we in the tech sector try to avoid is being reductionist in assuming simply because it is China that it is bad. That is simply not the case."
— Dean Garfield

It's complicated: Political consultant Bruce Mehlman says there is naiveté among both elected officials and industry players, with elected officials "not realizing how global the supply chains have become" and tech companies underestimating the global implications of China's "overwhelmingly aggressive" 2025 plan to dominate the tech industry.

"The core issue is that both nations want to dominate a sector defined by network effects. The best innovators leverage bigger data sets, larger consumer bases, global customers, while the most aggressive nationalists aim to box-out others’ products and people."
— Bruce Mehlman to Axios

Go deeper

Updated 19 mins ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs of Team Italy crosses the finish line ahead of American Fred Kerley in the men's 100m final on day nine of the Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, on Sunday. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

🚨: IOC "looking into" American Raven Saunders' Olympic podium gesture

🏃🏾: Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs: Reconnecting with U.S. father "gave me the desire to win" Olympic 100m sprint race.

🥇High jumpers persuade Olympic officials to let them share gold

🏌️‍♂️: Golfer Xander Schauffele wins gold for U.S. by one shot

🤸🏿‍♀️: Simone Biles won't compete in Olympic floor finals, individual vault or uneven bars

🏳️‍⚧️: Axios at the Olympics: Games grapple with trans athletesTrans athletes see the Tokyo Games as a watershed moment

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Updated 31 mins ago - Sports

IOC "looking into" American Raven Saunders' Olympic podium gesture

Team USA's Raven Saunders gestures on the podium with her silver medal after competing in the women's shot put event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Sunday. Photo: Ina Fassbender/AFP via Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee is "looking into" U.S. shot-putter Raven Saunders' gesture on the Tokyo Games podium after she won a silver medal, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams told reporters Monday.

Why it matters: Saunders told AP she placed her hands above her head in an "X" formation while on the podium to stand up for "oppressed" people. The IOC has banned protests during the Tokyo Games.

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Olympic sprint champ Jacobs: Reconnecting with U.S. dad "gave me desire" to win

Italy's Lamont Marcell Jacobs celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the men's 100m final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Sunday. Photo: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images

Italy's surprise 100-meters Olympic gold medalist Lamont Marcell Jacobs opened up Sunday about how reconnecting with his American father over the past year has helped spur him on.

What he's saying: The Texas-born sprinter told reporters after setting a European record of 9.80 seconds to win gold in Sunday's event that getting back in touch with his father "gave me the desire, the speed, that something more that helped me being here and win the Olympics."