research / Briefing and working papers

Working paper: Partners in knowledge creation: trends in Australia-China research collaboration and future challenges

July 19 2019


Australia does not have the scale of physical capital, human capital and/or domestic market needed to operate at the international technology frontier under its own steam. This reality means Australia’s high-income status depends on being open to cross-border flows of new technologies and creating new knowledge through research collaboration with international partners. Historically, such collaboration has been oriented towards countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. However, China’s emergence as a major source of knowledge creation has disrupted the traditional order.

This paper draws on bibliometric data to conduct a preliminary analysis of the extent to which China has emerged as a collaboration partner for Australia. The findings point to China’s rise being both rapid and dramatic, irrespective of whether metrics related to the quantity or quality of knowledge created are used. Further, the data point to collaboration with China largely being complementary to that undertaken with more traditional partners in terms of research subject areas.

Despite these findings, the future trajectory of Australia-China knowledge creation is uncertain owing to concerns around national security and ethics, deteriorating conditions for academic inquiry in China due to an increasingly repressive political regime and a worsening funding environment for universities in Australia.

Authors: James Laurenceson, Acting Director, Australia-China Relations Institute, University of Technology Sydney; Michael Zhou, Project and Research Officer, Australia-China Relations Institute, University of Technology Sydney. 

Notes: An earlier version of this working paper was presented at the 31st annual conference of the Chinese Economics Society of Australia, held at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, July 15-16 2019.

UTS:ACRI working papers are research papers in progress. Feedback is welcomed by the author(s).