Only a few cases of systematic empirical research have been reported investigating collaborative knowledge production in China and its implications for China's national and regional innovation system. Using Chinese patent data in the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), this paper examines the geographic variations in intraregional, inter-regional and international knowledge exchanges of China from 1985 to 2007. Degree centrality reveals that intraregional and international collaborations are the main channels of knowledge exchange for the provinces and municipalities of China while inter-regional knowledge exchange is relatively weak. Besides, over the two decades, the knowledge exchange network has been expanding (connecting an increasing number of provinces and countries), becoming more decentralized (increasing number of hubs) and more cohesive (more linkages). A blockmodel analysis further reveals that the inter-regional network of China begins to show characteristics of a core-periphery structure. The most active knowledge exchange occurs between members of the core block composed by the most advanced provinces while the members of the peripheral block from less favored regions have few or no local and extra-local knowledge exchange. Building a strong knowledge transfer network would much improve the innovation capacities in less favored regions and help them break out from their “locked-in” development trajectories.
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