Bigger than You Thought: China's Contribution to Scientific Publications and Its Impact on the Global Economy


China’s advance to the forefront of scientific research is one of the 21st century’s most surprising developments, with implications for a world where knowledge is arguably “the one ring that rules them all.” This paper provides new estimates of China’s contribution to global science that far exceed estimates based on the proportion of papers with Chinese addresses in the Scopus database of international scientific journals. The standard address-based measure ignores two contributions from Chinese researchers: articles written by Chinese researchers with non-Chinese addresses and articles in Chinese language scientific journals not indexed in Scopus. Taking account of these contributions, we attribute 36 percent of the 2016 global scientific publications to China. In addition, we find that citations to Chinese-addressed articles have increased from far below the global average, which helped bring China’s share of global citations to approximately 37 percent of global citations to papers published in 2013. With a share of scientific publications and citations more than twice its share of global population or GDP, China has achieved a comparative advantage in knowledge that has implications for the division of labor and trade among countries and for the direction of research and of technological and economic development worldwide.

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