China is becoming a leading nation in terms of its share of the world's publications in the emerging nanotechnology domain. This paper demonstrates that the international rise of China's position in nanotechnology has been underwritten by the emergence of a series of regional hubs of nanotechnology R&D activity within the country. We develop a unique database of Chinese nanotechnology articles covering the period 1990 to mid-2006 to identify the regional distribution of nanotechnology research in China. To build this database, a new approach was developed to clean and standardize the geographical allocation of Chinese publication records. We then analyze the data to understand the regional development of nanotechnology research in China over our study period and to map interregional and international research collaboration linkages. We find that the geographical distribution of China's domestic nanotechnology research is characterized by regional imbalance, with most of the leading regions located in eastern China, including not only Beijing and Shanghai but also a series of other new regional hubs. There is much less development of nanotechnology research in central and western China. Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong are among the leading Chinese regions for international nanotechnology research collaboration. Other Chinese nanotechnology regions are less focused on international collaboration, although they have developed domestic interregional collaborations. Although new regional research hubs have emerged in the nanotechnology domain, the paper notes that their concentration in eastern China reinforces existing imbalances in science and technology capabilities in China, and in turn this may further reinforce the dominant position of eastern China in the commercialization of new technologies such as nanotechnology.
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