This is the first part of a series on the competition between the United States and China over science, technology, and research and development. 

In May 2018, just months after the U.S.-China trade war escalated and both sides began slapping tariffs on each other’s goods, Chinese President Xi Jinping outlined his vision of how his country would unseat the United States as the global superpower. 

“We must strive to become the world’s main center of science and the high ground of innovation,” Xi said, according to a translation of his speech by researchers at Stanford University’s DigiChina project. “We are closer than any time in history to the objective of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, and we need more than any time in history to build [China into] a world [science and technology] superpower!” 

Xi mentioned several areas that would determine future global leadership: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, telecommunications, the Internet of Things, blockchain, synthetic biology, gene editing, brain science, regenerative medicine, integrated robotics, development of new materials, high-efficiency sustainable technologies, and space and maritime technologies. 

It would take nearly two years and a pivotal U.S. election that put Democrats in charge of Congress and the White House before a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Congress would begin to address the contest spelled out by Xi.