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Silicon Valley faces four challengers, all in China

Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Shenzhen emerge as high-tech centers

According to a Chinese government report published in March, the country had 164 unicorns in 2017, up 33 from a year earlier. These include ByteDance, which provides video-sharing app TikTok.

TOKYO -- For decades the U.S. was the world's startup leader, spawning a generation of companies, especially in technology, that went on to become world leaders. But Silicon Valley is looking over its shoulder at China, and for good reason: 16,000 companies are born there every day.

A Chinese government report put the number of "unicorns" -- privately held companies valued at $1 billion or more -- in the country at 164 in 2017, a 25% increase from the year before. By some counts, it already has more unicorns than the U.S., although cross-country comparisons are difficult and putting a price tag on unlisted companies is more art than science.

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