China Rises to World Innovation Powerhouse

It is obvious that China is on its way to become a major global power for innovation.

China’s persistent efforts to encourage innovations in science and technology have made remarkable achievements. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) recently released its Yearly Review 2023, giving a detailed report and statistics on global patents over the last year.

In 2022, the PCT had 157 member states and applicants from 134 countries filed PCT applications at 85 receiving offices (ROs). However, despite such a widespread geographical distribution, filing activity was heavily concentrated in a select number of economies.

Combined, the top 10 ROs accounted for 93.8 percent of applications filed in 2022. With 74,420 filings, the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) received the most PCT applications. It was followed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) (55,330), the Japan Patent Office (JPO) (48,826), the European Patent Office (EPO) (38,854), the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) (21,964) and the International Bureau (IB) of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) (13,713).

According to the PCT Yearly Review, since 2019, China has been the most active filer of PCT applications. Before that, U.S. applicants filed the most applications each year, accounting for 28.9 percent of total PCT applications filed since 1978. They are followed by applicants from Japan (17.6%), China (11.9%), Germany (9.5%) and the Republic of Korea (5.2%).

The Patent Cooperation Treaty is an international patent treaty that provides a unified procedure for filing and processing patent applications and facilitates the seeking of patent protection for inventions in multiple countries. The PCT System is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). With its 157 member states in 2022, the PCT System has been widely adopted and is now an important tool for inventors, companies, universities and research institutions to protect their innovations internationally.

“Shenxing,” a fast-charging lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery made by China’s EV battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Co., Ltd. (CATL), is displayed during the press preview of the 2023 International Motor Show (IAA) in Munich, Germany, Sept. 4, 2023. (Photo/Xinhua)

The first PCT application was filed on June 1, 1978. Since then, PCT has expanded from 20 member states in 1978 to today’s global system covering over 80 percent of all countries. The origins of PCT applications also continued to expand. Applicants from 134 countries filed at least one PCT application in 2022, which is the widest spread of origins within any single year.

Since 1978, PCT applications filed also have grown by 11.5 percent per year, except in 2009, during the global financial crisis and the resultant economic downturn and received about 4.82 million applications until 2022.

Even though PCT applications are received from around the world, most of the applications are submitted by a few countries which are mostly the world’s largest economies. Almost three quarters (73%) of the 4.82 million PCT applications filed since 1978 were filed by applicants residing in China, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States. Their combined share has trended upwards over time, growing from around 67 percent in 2000 to 79 percent in 2022.

During the period from 2002 to 2022, filings from Asia grew constantly and sharply, by averaging 10.7 percent per year. Most of this increase in filings originated from China (52.2%). China has become the leading country contributing to the growth of patents in Asia.

Approximately 278,100 PCT applications were filed under WIPO’s PCT in 2022, out of that, Asia accounted for 54.7 percent of total filings, of which 93.6 percent originated from China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. Together with India, Israel, Türkiye and Singapore, these seven countries accounted for 99 percent of Asian filings in 2022.

Photo taken on Oct. 4, 2019 shows the venue of the “European Innovation Day” event organized by Huawei in Paris, France. (Photo/Xinhua)

At the same time, the top five countries of origin accounted for over 78.7 percent of applications. With 70,015 PCT applications, China filed the most applications, followed by applicants from the U.S. (59,056), Japan (50,345), the Republic of Korea (22.012) and Germany (17,530).

In short, according to the PCT Yearly Review 2023 report, since 2019, China remained the world’s top filer of patent applications. It is obvious that China is on its way to become a major global power for innovation. This is because China strongly believes that technology innovation is the driving force behind the upgrading of traditional industries to seize opportunities in the world new wave of technological revolution and industrial transformation.

According to the government work report delivered by Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the second session of the 14th National People’s Congress of China on March 5, China will continue to give priority to supporting innovation in science and technology. The country has vowed to strive to modernize the industrial system and develop new quality productive forces at a faster pace. And innovation will play a leading role to this end.

To meet this goal, Chinese central government has announced a budget of around 370.8 billion yuan for supporting science and technology innovation, a 10 percent increase on the basis of last year. It is predicted that China will become a leading country in science and technology in the near future, which will transform the landscape of the global development.


The article reflects the author’s opinions, and not necessarily the views of China Focus.