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Are Chinese cities getting smarter in terms of knowledge and technology they produce?

Are Chinese cities becoming smarter in terms of the knowledge and technologies they produce? For decades, the widely held believe in the global North is that China merely copies, imitates and only incrementally improves ideas. Recently, this believe is increasingly being challenged. In this paper I quantify this process. Using data from about 6,1 million patents and 60 million academic publications I examine the complexity of technologies and knowledge developed in major Chinese cities and compare these to those produced in other global cities.

The results show that (1) knowledge and technologies produced in Chinese cities has increasingly taken a greater share of total output of global cities; (2) the quality of this output has increased over time; (3) Chinese cities improve the quality of their knowledge output before increasing the quality of technology; and (4) only Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen compete with other global cities in terms of the quality of output, suggesting emerging regional inequality within China linked to knowledge and technology production.

Not only is the size of the Chinese economy increasing, so is the quantity and quality of its knowledge and technology output.


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