President Obama wants the U.S. to catch up to China when it comes to "high-performance computing."

He issued an executive order Wednesday establishing a national strategic computing initiative to coordinate efforts by the government, private sector and academia to build the next generation of supercomputer. The order envisions the U.S. building an "exascale computing system" capable of performing quadrillions of calculations per second, and would deliver "approximately 100 times the performance" of current supercomputers.

The new system would be used for "a range of applications representing government needs," the order said.

China's Tianhe-2 has topped the list of global supercomputers for five years running, but the U.S. retains the title of nation with the most supercomputers on the top 500 list.

Obama issued the executive order "to maximize the benefits of [high-performance computing] for economic competitiveness and scientific discovery."

"Maximizing the benefits of [high-powered computing] in the coming decades will require an effective national response to increasing demands for computing power, emerging technological challenges and opportunities and growing economic dependency on and competition with other nations," Obama wrote.

The order also calls on the government to work out a plan for developing high-performance computers "after the limits of current semiconductor technology are reached."

The Energy and Defense Departments, along with the National Science Foundation, will take the lead. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity and the National Institute of Standards and Technology will play key technical roles.

The new initiative will be run by an executive council led by the directors of the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which have 90 days to submit a plan to implement the executive order.