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To Remain Tops in Innovation, the U.S. Needs Immigration Reform

China is producing ever more science and technology graduates and climbing the global rankings in patent applications
China is producing ever more science and technology graduates and climbing the global rankings in patent applicationsPhotograph by Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

As China’s economy catches up with America’s in pure size, it’s worth asking whether China will eventually assume the top spot when it comes to innovation as well. The U.S. retains a strong global lead in research and new inventions, in large part because the U.S. continues to attract innovators from the world over—including from China. But to stay on top, the U.S. needs immigration reform that makes it easier for scientists and technology developers to come and stay in the country.

China is churning out ever more science and technology graduates and climbing the global rankings in patent applications. By 2004 it was the fifth-largest producer of academic scientific publications—behind only the U.K., Germany, Japan, and the U.S. And in 2011, China’s ZTE alone made 2,826 international patent filings—the most of any company in the world.