Clarivate Report Reveals China Challenging U.S. Research Dominance, Signaling Future Research Ambitions

Institute for Scientific Information shows China matching research productivity with excellence, diversifying its research economy and expanding its collaboration network 

London, U.K. October 31, 2023. Clarivate Plc (NYSE:CLVT), a global leader in connecting people and organizations to intelligence they can trust to transform their world, today released a report from the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)™ which reveals that China’s* research economy has seen a dramatic increase in quality and its research is increasingly valued beyond its borders. China is also diversifying beyond its traditional strengths in technology and physical sciences to focus on new areas such as biomolecular science.

China’s research landscape draws on data from the Web of Science™ citation index of scientific publications and charts China’s remarkable research trajectory over the last 40 years. The report shows an acceleration in published research output, which increased five-fold between 2009 and 2021, well outpacing the U.S. and E.U. Analysis from the Institute for Scientific Information suggests this trajectory is likely to continue.

China’s remarkable research productivity is matched by its increasing research excellence. Its proportion of published research with citation impact above the global average now matches the U.S. and Germany. In addition, China’s substantial volume of exceptional research in the form of Highly Cited Papers™ exceeds 1,000 per year, indicating that the global scientific community is taking note of what China is doing and seeking to collaborate with the researchers delivering these papers.

Jonathan Adams, Chief Scientist at the Institute for Scientific Information at Clarivate, said: “China continues its rise as a global science and technology power and our report findings show that the notion that its research output is lagging in quality can be effectively dispelled. While the U.S. remains a key international research partner, China is fostering closer collaboration with emerging research economies in the Middle East as well as many others. This underlines the importance of research investment as an aid to cultural diplomacy.”

Other key findings of the report include:

  • China exceeded U.S. published research output in plant and animal sciences, agricultural sciences and pharmacology and is on a pathway to challenge the U.S. in biochemistry and molecular biology.
  • The shift in research quality is shown by the rising number of Highly Cited Researchers™** – individuals who have demonstrated significant and broad influence in their field or fields of research. The number of Highly Cited Researchers in China doubled to 1,169 between 2018 and 2022, only second to the U.S.’s 2,764 Highly Cited Researchers. Many of China’s Highly Cited Researchers are based at globally renowned institutions such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University and their highly cited contributions are strongly represented in chemistry, engineering and material sciences disciplines.
  • China has an exceptional share of the world’s research publications in technology areas, exceeding 40% of all articles and reviews published in areas such as automation control, telecommunications and nanotechnology between 2017 and 2021.
  • China’s Research Fronts™, which reveal the hot topics and likely direction of future research, are driven by ‘core papers’ focused on chemistry and engineering related fields. However, for co-citing papers, China has markedly more activity in clinical and life sciences fields, one of the U.S.’s strengths, and so could rival the U.S in future.
  • The U.S. remains China’s most important international research partner, co-authoring over 40% of China’s collaborative output over the last decade. As many as one-third of U.S. papers in telecommunications and over one-quarter in a spread of other areas feature a co-author affiliated with Chinese institutions.
  • China is expanding its collaboration network and has emerged as a leading research partner for smaller nations across the Middle East, particularly in emerging green energy technologies, and Asia. China is the dominant research partner for Pakistan and Singapore.

Dr. Nandita Quaderi, Senior Vice President, Academia & Government at Clarivate said: “This latest ISI analysis demonstrates the huge potential of our research data and transformative intelligence to inform research assessment and research policy on China. In doing so, we help empower researchers and policymakers at institutions and governments to think forward and accelerate the development of the global research base.”

*In this report, the regional term China in technical analyses identifies the research activity of the People’s Republic of China including Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau. Some analyses cover only Mainland China excluding the latter areas. In discussion a more colloquial use of the term ‘China’ may be used without specific geographical reference.

**Highly Cited Researchers are global scientists and social scientists who have demonstrated significant and broad influence in their field or fields of research, contributing disproportionately to extending the frontiers of knowledge. Every year since 2014, Clarivate has issued a highly anticipated and much-celebrated list of Highly Cited Researchers. The 2023 list will be announced in November.

About Clarivate

Clarivate is a leading global information services provider. We connect people and organizations to intelligence they can trust to transform their perspective, their work and our world. Our subscription and technology-based solutions are coupled with deep domain expertise and cover the areas of Academia & Government, Life Sciences & Healthcare and Intellectual Property. For more information, please visit

Media contact:

Helen Chung-Kesl

External Communications Manager, Academia & Government

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