Is China Becoming a Hi-Tech Superpower? Measuring Success and Failure

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 2:15 PM-3:45 PM
CLM.3.04 (Clement House)
Rachel Parker, ..., Washington, DC
China’s scientific output, as measured by the number of publications and patents, has grown exponentially over the past decade. Bullish conclusions about China’s success have been advanced in many quarters: important gatherings of policy-makers, business elites, and pundits such as the World Economic Forum; business schools, consulting firms, and think tanks such as IMD, Booz Allen, Lux Research, and Demos; and official Chinese agencies, such as the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development. According to these reports, China has now surpassed the United States, long the world’s leader on most indices.

In this paper I take a critical look at the metrics used to gauge China’s success.  What does the explosion in China’s numbers of patents and publications in S&T related fields really show?  Drawing on an original bibliometric analysis of publications and scientometric analysis of patents, I analyze the degree of success – or failure – in key high-tech fields. I examine the importance of international collaboration on the quantity and quality of publications, the latter as measured by both journal and publication impact. I also look at patents – both those filed with the Chinese patent office (SIPO), and those filed with the European and US patent offices – to determine the principal areas in which China is successfully commercializing its scientific advances. Given China’s overarching goal to achieve indigenous innovation, to what degree – and in what areas – has this effort paid off? The rapid rise in China’s R&D-related output has also raised questions concerning scientific misconduct. Reports of plagiarism and outsourced publication by prominent academicians, intellectual property theft, and failure to adhere to international research standards raises the question of not only scientific integrity, but also the degree to which China’s successes in high tech fields are the result of legitimate practices. In this paper I will take a hard look at these issues, examining the degree to which they are systemic rather than merely anecdotal.