US-China tech war: rivals no longer worlds apart as they shoot for the moon

US-China tech war: rivals no longer worlds apart as they shoot for the moon

Launching missions to the moon and Mars, diving to the depths of the oceans and racing to develop Covid-19 vaccines, China and the United States are competing on almost every frontier of research and technology on Earth and beyond.

Chinese spacecraft Chang’e 5 this week brought home rock samples from its lunar mission. In 2024, a Blue Origin spaceship may send the first woman to the moon. While the Chang’e 5 craft is owned by the Chinese government, Blue Origin is a rocket venture owned by Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos.

“Our market-oriented approach will allow us to prevail against state-directed models that produce waste and disincentivise innovation,” read a White House document in October that unveiled a national strategy to maintain the United States’ global leadership in 20 technological areas, including artificial intelligence (AI), space and medical technologies.

Yet the driving forces behind science and technology advancement in the two countries are not defined precisely by the White House’s categorisation.