Today, China has the world’s only internet companies that can match America’s in ambition and reach.
It is years ahead of the United States in replacing paper money with smartphone payments, turning tech giants into vital gatekeepers of the consumer economy.
And it is host to a supernova of creative expression — in short videos, podcasts, blogs and streaming TV — that ought to dispel any notions of Chinese culture as drearily conformist.
All this, on a patch of cyberspace that is walled off from Facebook and Google, policed by tens of thousands of censors and subject to strict controls on how data is collected, stored and shared.
China’s leaders like the internet they have created. And now, they want to direct the nation’s talent and tech acumen toward an even loftier end: building an innovation-driven economy, one that produces world-leading companies.
Not long ago, Chinese tech firms were best known for copying Silicon Valley.