American tensions with China over international trade spring partly from concerns that China gives tax breaks to its companies to boost their exports, restricts access to its markets, forces foreign companies to transfer their technology to Chinese companies, steals intellectual property and pursues industrial espionage.

Expert, decisive action is needed to stop these practices in defense of fair international competition and America’s strategic and commercial interests. But it would be a mistake to think that an aggressive defense alone will somehow prevent China’s technological success — or ensure America’s own.

China is not an innovation also-ran that prospers mainly by copying other people’s ideas and producing them quickly at low cost. The country is advancing aggressively to assert technological supremacy in critical fields of science and technology.

In quantum computing, China’s Alibaba is battling Google to achieve the technical milestone of “quantum supremacy.” In 5G technology, the three largest global players are Nokia of Finland, Ericsson of Sweden — and Huawei of China, which is spending more than two and a half times as much on research and development as its two rivals. The Fuxing bullet train, designed and built in China, is the world’s fastest in regular operation.

China is also a world leader in fields like mobile payment and facial and spoken language recognition, where Chinese companies have made the most of their advanced algorithms and their advantages in scale and data access. It is also making bold national investments in key areas of research like biotechnology and space, and directly supporting start-ups and recruiting talent from around the world. And China has unrivaled capacity to rapidly ramp up large-scale production of advanced technology products and quickly bring innovation to market.

China’s Challenge Is America’s Opportunitys