This study examined the patterns and nature of science co-publications between the USA and China. Based on a scientometric study of Scopus co-publications over the past 5 years, the results demonstrated a continuous rise of bilateral collaboration between the two countries. Challenging the US political rhetoric and attempts to curb international research engagement with China, the findings demonstrated ways that China plays a leading role in US-China research collaboration, based on first authorship and governmental funding patterns. Findings also showed that over the past 5 years, US research article publications would have declined without co-authorship with China, whereas China’s publication rate would have risen without the USA. Using zero-sum and positive-sum frameworks, this study shows the benefits of US collaboration with China for both the US nation-state and global science.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
We’re sorry, something doesn't seem to be working properly.
Please try refreshing the page. If that doesn't work, please contact support so we can address the problem.
Ackerman, T. (2019). MD Anderson ousts 3 scientists over concerns about Chinese conflicts of interest. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved from https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/MD-Anderson-fires-3-scientists-over-concerns-13780570.php. Accessed 19 April 2019.
Adams, J. (2013). The fourth age of research. Nature, 497, 557–560.
Allison, G. (2017). Destined for war: can America and China escape Thucydides’ trap? Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Al-Rodhan, K. R. (2007). A critique of the China threat theory: a systematic analysis. Asian Perspective, 31, 41–66.
American Association for the Advancement of Science (2019). Multisociety letter on foreign influence. Retrieved October 23, 2019, from https://www.aaas.org/sites/default/files/2019-09/Multisociety%20Letter%20on%20Foreign%20Influence_9-4-2019.pdf.
Baker, S. (2018). China could overtake US on research impact by mid-2020s. Times Higher Education. Retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/china-could-overtake-us-research-impact-mid-2020s. Accessed 12 July 2018.
Barker, M. (1981). The new racism: conservatives and the ideology of the tribe. London: Junction Books.
Basson, J., Lorsch, J., & Dorsey, T. (2016). Revisiting the dependence of scientific productivity and impact on funding level. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://loop.nigms.nih.gov/2016/07/revisiting-the-dependence-of-scientific-productivity-and-impact-on-funding-level/. Accessed 8 July 2016.
Bernstein, R., & Munro, R. (1997). The coming conflict with America. Foreign Affairs, 76(2), 18–32. https://doi.org/10.2307/20047934.
Bornmann, L., & Daniel, H. (2008). What do citation counts measure? A review of studies on citing behavior. Journal of Documentation, 64(1), 45–80. https://doi.org/10.1108/00220410810844150.
Broomfield, E. V. (2003). Perceptions of danger: the China threat theory. Journal of Contemporary China, 12, 265–284.
Cantwell, B., & Lee, J. J. (2010). Unseen workers in the academic factory: perceptions of neo-racism among international postdocs in the US and UK. Harvard Education Review, 80(4), 490–517.
Cantwell, B., & Taylor, B. J. (2015). Rise of the science and engineering postdoctorate and the restructuring of academic research. The Journal of Higher Education, 86, 667–696.
Cantwell, B., Lee, J. J., & Mlambo, Y. (2018). International graduate student labor as mergers and acquisitions. International Student Journal, 8(4), 1483–1498.
Chan, T. F. (2019). Pentagon to end language funding for universities that host Chinese communist party–funded Confucius institutes. Newsweek. https://www.newsweek.com/confucius-institute-pentagon-communist-chinese-1406772?cid=db. Accessed 30 April 2019.
Chinchilla-Rodríguez, Z., Vargas-Quesada, B., Hassan-Montero, Y., González-Molina, A., & Moya-Anegóna, F. (2010). New approach to the visualization of international scientific collaboration. Information Visualization, 9(4), 277–287.
Christ, C., Alivisatos, P., & Katz, R. (2019). Reaffirming our support for Berkeley’s international community. Retrieved from https://evcp.berkeley.edu/news/reaffirming-our-support-berkeleys-international-community. Accessed 20 February 2019.
Christensen, T. J. (2006). Fostering stability or creating a monster? The rise of China and U.S. policy toward East Asia. International Security, 31, 81–126.
Coccia, M., & Bozeman, B. (2016). Allometric models to measure and analyze the evolution of international research collaboration. Scientometrics, 108, 1065–1084.
Coccia, M., & Wang, L. (2016). Evolution and convergence of the patterns of international scientific collaboration. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 113, 2057–2061.
Cohen, J. (2018). Massive cyberhack by Iran allegedly stole research from 320 universities, governments, and companies. Science. Retrieved https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/03/massive-cyber-hack-iran-allegedly-stole-research-320-universities-governments-and
Cohen, Z. & Marquardt, A. (2019). US intelligence warns China is using student spies to steal secrets. CNN. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2019/02/01/politics/us-intelligence-chinese-student-espionage/index.html
Committee of 100. (2019). Committee of 100 Condemns Chinese American Racial Profiling [Press Release]. Retrieved from https://www.committee100.org/press_release/committee-of-100-condemns-chinese-american-racial-profiling-2/. Accessed 7 April 2019.
Elsevier. (2017). Scopus content coverage guide. Retrieved October 23, 2019, from https://www.elsevier.com/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/69451/0597-Scopus-Content-Coverage-Guide-US-LETTER-v4-HI-singles-no-ticks.pdf.
Elsevier. (2019a). Scopus. Retrieved October 23, 2019, from https://www.elsevier.com/solutions/scopus.
Elsevier. (2019b). How do I export documents from Scopus? Retrieved October 23, 2019, from https://service.elsevier.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/11234/supporthub/scopus/#anchor.
Federal Register. (2017). Addressing China’s laws, policies, practices, and actions related to intellectual property, innovation, and technology. Retrieved from https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2017-08-17/pdf/2017-17528.pdf. Accessed 23 Oct 2019.
Feng, E. (2019). FBI urges universities to monitor some Chinese students and scholars in the U.S. National Public Radio. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2019/06/28/728659124/fbi-urges-universities-to-monitor-some-chinese-students-and-scholars-in-the-u-s. Accessed 28 June 2019.
Fischer, K. (2019). The number of student visa-holders in the U.S. has fallen, new data shows [Blog post]. Latitudes. Retrieved from https://latitudes.substack.com. Accessed 20 October 2019.
Freeman, R.B. & Huang, W. (2014). Nature, 513, 305.
Georghiou, L. (1998). Global cooperation in research. Research Policy, 27(6), 611–626.
Global Times. (2019). American elites are damaging US’ good image [Editorial]. Global Times. Retrieved from http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1146542.shtml. Accessed 18 April 2019
Golden, D. (2017). Spy schools: how the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence secretly exploit America’s universities. New York: Henry Holt and Company.
Hvistendahl, M. (2019). Exclusive: major U.S. cancer center ousts ‘Asian’ researchers after NIH flags their foreign ties. Science. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/04/exclusive-major-us-cancer-center-ousts-asian-researchers-after-nih-flags-their-foreign. Accessed 19 April 2019.
Jacob, B. A., & Lefgren, L. (2011). The impact of research grant funding on scientific productivity. J Public Econ., 95(9-10), 1168–1177.
Kaiser, J. & Malakoff, D. (2018). NIH investigating whether U.S. scientists are sharing ideas with foreign governments. Science. Retrieved from https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/08/nih-investigating-whether-us-scientists-are-sharing-ideas-foreign-governments. Accessed 27 August 2018.
Kim, D., Wolf-Wendel, L., & Twombly, S. (2011). International faculty: experiences of academic life and productivity in U.S. universities. The Journal of Higher Education, 82, 720–747.
Larivière, V., Desrochers, N., Macaluso, B., Mongeon, P., Paul-Hus, A., & Sugimoto, C. (2016). Contributorship and division of labor in knowledge production. Social Studies of Science, 46(3), 417–435.
Laudel, G. (2002). What do we measure by co-authorships? Research evaluation, 11(1), 3–15.
Lee J. J. (2017). Neo-nationalism in higher education: case of South Africa. Studies in Higher Education. 42(5), 869–886
Lee, J.J. (2019). Beyond Trumpism: the underlying U.S. political climate for international students and scholars. Trends and Insights, A Special Edition by the 2018-19 NAFSA Senior Scholars. http://www.nafsa.org/Professional_Resources/Research_and_Trends/Internationalization_in_a_Time_of_Global_Disruption/. Accessed 23 October 2019.
Lee, J. J., & Opio, T. (2011). Coming to America: challenges and difficulties faced by African international student athletes. Sport, Education and Society, 16(5), 629–644.
Lee, J. J., & Rice, C. (2007). Welcome to America? International Student Perceptions of Discrimination. Higher Education, 53(3), 381–409. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-005-4508-3.
Leta, J., & Chaimovich, H. (2002). Recognition and international collaboration: the Brazilian case. Scientometrics, 53, 325–335.
Lee, J., Jon, J., & Byun, K. (2017). Neo-racism and Neo-nationalism within East Asia: The experiences of international students in South Korea. Journal of Studies in International Education, 21(2), 136–155.
Lu, S., Han, Z., Hung, M., Xu, J., Xu, Y., Zheng, P., Zheng, Z., Zou, L., Li. Z., Zheng, L., Kang, Y., Yang, Y., He, L., Liao, C., Yu, H., Yue, Z., Liu, S., & Zheng, H. (2019). Racial profiling harms science [Letter]. Science, 363(6433), 1290–1292.
Lundberg, J., Tomson, G., Lundkvist, I., Skar, J., & Brommels, M. (2006). Collaboration uncovered: exploring the adequacy of measuring university-industry collaboration through co-authorship and funding. Scientometrics, 69, 575–589.
Luukkonen, T., Persson, O., & Siversten, G. (1992). Understanding patterns of international scientific collaboration. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 17, 101–126.
Mahbubani, K. (2019). What China threat? How the United States and China can avoid war. Harpers Magazine. Retrieved October 23, 2019, from https://harpers.org/archive/2019/02/what-china-threat/.
Malakoff, D. (2019) Emory ousts two Chinese American researchers after investigation into foreign ties. Science. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/05/emory-ousts-two-chinese-american-researchers-after-investigation-foreign-ties. Accessed 23 May 2019.
Mamiseishvili, K., & Rosser, V. (2010). International and citizen faculty in the United States: An examination of their productivity at research universities. Research in Higher Education, 51(1), 88–107.
Marginson, S. (2006). Dynamics of national and global competition in higher education. Higher Education, 52, 1–39.
Marginson, S. (2018). National/global synergy in the development of higher education and science in China since 1978. Frontiers of Education in China, 13, 486–512.
Mervis, J. (2019). U.S. universities reassess collaborations with foreign scientists in wake of NIH letters. Science. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/04/us-universities-reassess-collaborations-foreign-scientists-wake-nih-letters. Accessed 26 April 2019.
MIT News Office. (2019) Letter to the MIT community: immigration is a kind of oxygen. Retrieved from http://news.mit.edu/2019/letter-community-immigration-is-oxygen-0625. Accessed 25 June 2019.
National Science Foundation (NSF). (2018). Science and engineering indicators 2018. NSF. Retrieved October 23, 2019, from https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/2018/nsb20181/report.
Nature Index. (2019). Connected world: patterns of international collaboration captured by the nature index. Retrieved October 23, 2019, from https://www.natureindex.com/country-outputs/collaboration-graph.
Reuters. (2018). China denies ‘slanderous’ economic espionage charges from US, allies. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2018/12/21/china-denies-economic-espionage-charges-from-us-allies.html. Accessed 20 December 2018.
Rotolo, T., & Frickel, S. (2019). When disasters strike environmental science: a case–control study of changes in scientific collaboration networks. Scientometrics, 120, 301. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-019-03122-y.
Roy, D. (1996). The “China Threat” issue: major arguments. Asian Survey, 36, 758–771.
Shao, E. (2019). President and provost release a statement reaffirming support for international community at Stanford. Stanford Daily. https://www.stanforddaily.com/2019/03/08/president-and-provost-release-a-statement-reaffirming-support-for-international-community-at-stanford/. Accessed 8 March 2019.
Sharma, Y. (2019). Top US research universities freeze ties with Huawei. University World News. Retrieved from https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20190211124159161. Accessed 11 February 2019.
Smith, M. J., Weinberger, C., Bruna, E. M., & Allesina, S. (2014). The scientific impact of nations: journal placement and citation performance. Plos One. Retrieved from. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0109195.
Subramanyam, K. (1983). Bibliometric studies of research collaboration: a review. Journal of Information Science, 6, 33–38.
Sun, X., Kaur, J., Milojevic, S., Flammini, A., & Menczer, F. (2013). Social dynamics of science. Scientific Reports, 3, 1–6.
The White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy. (2018). How China’s economic aggression threatens the technologies and intellectual property of the United States and the World. Retrieved October 23, 2019, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/FINAL-China-Technology-Report-6.18.18-PDF.pdf.
US Department of Justice. (2018). Statement of E.W. Priestap Assistant Director Counterintelligence Division Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved October 23, 2019, from https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/06-06-18%20Priestap%20Testimony.pdf.
US Department of State. (2012). United States – China Science and Technology Cooperation. Retrieved October 23, 2019, from https://2009-2017.state.gov/documents/organization/197119.pdf.
US Senate. (2018). Open hearing on worldwide threats. Senate Hearing 115-278. Retrieved October 23, 2019, from https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/CHRG-115shrg28947/pdf/CHRG-115shrg28947.pdf.
Wagner, C. S., Park, H. W., & Leydesdorff. (2015). The continuing growth of global cooperation networks in research: a conundrum for national governments. PLoS ONE, 10(7), e0131816. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0131816.
Williams, R. (2019). Chinese-American scientist societies fear racial profiling. The Scientist. Retrieved from https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/chinese-american-scientist-societies-fear-racial-profiling-65627#.XJUXzGDCAbQ.twitter. Accessed 21 March 2019.
Xinhua. (2017). China, U.S. pledge to push for renewal of sci-tech cooperation Xinhuanet. Retrieved from http://www.xinhuanet.com//english/2017-09/29/c_136648313.htm. Accessed 29 September 2017.
Yoon-Hendricks, A. (2018). Visa restrictions for Chinese students alarm academia. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/25/us/politics/visa-restrictions-chinese-students.html. Accessed 25 July 2018.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Lee, J.J., Haupt, J.P. Winners and losers in US-China scientific research collaborations. High Educ 80, 57–74 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-019-00464-7
- Global science
- Research collaboration
- International collaboration