This paper examines the rapid growth of China in the field of nanotechnology and the rise of collaboration between China and the US in this emerging domain. Chinese scientific papers in nanotechnology are analyzed to indicate overall trends, leading fields and the most prolific institutions. Patterns of China–US nanotechnology paper co-authorship are examined over the period 1990–2009, with an analysis of how these patterns have changed over time. The paper combines bibliometric analysis and science mapping. We find rapid development in the number of China–US co-authored nanotechnology papers as well as structural changes in array of collaborative nanotechnology sub-fields. Implications for both China and the US of this evolving relationship are discussed.