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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

For the past century, the U.S. or its allies have held the upper hand in technology, whether it was the code cracking that helped win World War II, the atomic and space races, or the processing power that ushered in the digital age. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union competed on rockets and weapons systems, but didn't challenge American supremacy in consumer tech.

The state of play: Now, that has changed. And America is paying too little attention. The U.S. is now in a winner-takes-all race with China for dominance in 5G, artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

And the race is even broader than that, Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon points out:

  • U.S tech dominance was much broader than just information technology. But the U.S. has lost dominance of manufacturing technology, and did so decades ago, ceding it first to Germany, then to Japan, then to China.
  • In other areas like agriculture and weaponry, the U.S. is still strong. But a large part of "One Belt, One Road" is a Chinese attempt to corner mega-scale infrastructure technology, where the U.S. is pretty far behind these days.

Dr. Graham Allison — a specialist in national security at Harvard, where he has taught for five decades — tells me: "The story beneath the story is the Great Rivalry between a meteorically rising China and a ruling U.S."

  • "After an American century, Americans have become accustomed to our place at the top of every pecking order," Allison says.
  • "The very idea that a Chinese company could displace the U.S. as No. 1 in any significant arena [China's Huawei in 5G], and most of all in a next-generation technology, is for most Americans an assault on who we are."

But that's exactly the danger. The lead story of last Sunday's New York Times ("In 5G Race With China, U.S. Pushes Allies to Fight Huawei") trumpets the contest over 5G cellular networks, which exponentially accelerate online speed and ubiquity.

  • "[T]he potential of 5G has created a zero-sum calculus in the Trump White House — a conviction that there must be a single winner in this arms race, and the loser must be banished," The Times' David E. Sanger, Julian E. Barnes, Raymond Zhong and Marc Santora write.

Be smart, from Axios chief tech correspondent Ina Fried: Often forgotten is how much China and the U.S. still need one another.

  • The U.S. relies on China for nearly all the manufacture of electronics, including phones and PCs designed here.
  • Meanwhile, China is still dependent on the U.S. for chips, although it has a plan to reduce or eliminate its reliance in the coming years.

Go deeper:

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Go deeper

NRA files for bankruptcy, says it will reincorporate in Texas

Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA) speaks during CPAC in 2016. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The National Rifle Association said Friday it has filed for voluntary bankruptcy as part of a restructuring plan.

Driving the news: The gun rights group said it would reincorporate in Texas, calling New York, where it is currently registered, a "toxic political environment." Last year, New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit to dissolve the NRA, alleging the group committed fraud by diverting roughly $64 million in charitable donations over three years to support reckless spending by its executives.

31 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden: "We will manage the hell out of" vaccine distribution

Joe Biden. Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden promised to invoke the Defense Production Act to increase vaccine manufacturing, as he outlined a five-point plan to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in the first months of his presidency.

Why it matters: With the Center for Disease Control and Prevention warning of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, Biden is trying to establish how he’ll approach the pandemic differently than President Trump.

A new Washington

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Image

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said Friday that the city should expect a "new normal" for security — even after President-elect Biden's inauguration.

The state of play: Inaugurations are usually a point of celebration in D.C., but over 20,000 troops are now patrolling Washington streets in an unprecedented preparation for Biden's swearing-in on Jan. 20.

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