"The Contribution of Chinese Diaspora Researchers to China's Catching Up in Global Science and High-Tech Industries,” (revised Feb 2021)


This study examines the contribution of Chinese diaspora researchers – those born in China but working outside the country – to China's catching up in global science to become a world leader in research publications and citations. Using a novel name-based way to identify Chinese diaspora authors of scientific papers, we show that these researchers produce a large proportion of global scientific papers of high quality, gaining about twice as many citations as other papers of the same vintage. Our analysis also shows that diaspora researchers are a critical node in the co-authorship and citation networks that connect scientific discovery in China with the rest of the world. In co-authorship, diaspora researchers are over-represented on international collaborations with China-addressed authors. In citations, a paper with a diaspora author is more likely to cite China-addressed papers than a non-China addressed paper without a diaspora author; and, commensurately, China-addressed papers are more likely to cite a non-China addressed paper with a diaspora author than a non-China paper without a diaspora author. Through those pathways, diaspora research contributed to China’s 2000-2015 catch-up in science and to global science writ large, consistent with ethnic network models of knowledge transfer, and contrary to brain drain fears that the emigration of researchers harms the source country.


Publisher's Version

Last updated on 01/30/2022