The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), initiated in 2012, entered into force in January 2022 with the participation of fifteen nations. The RCEP has the most promising potential to benefit the recovery of the global economy (Tian et al. 2022). The RCEP, according to Zreik (2022), is an agreement that will transform the world economy. Trade liberalisation and facilitation are the RCEP’s core principles (Shi 2023). Post-pandemic, this is the most significant and essential hope for the global economy to receive a boost (Jung, 2021).

After 2022, more scholars in each discipline transferred their research attention to the RCEP (Cong et al. 2023; Stehrer and Vujanovic 2022; Zhao and Mun 2023). The RCEP research topic is not limited to the initial domains, such as economics and commerce. In addition to the green, education, environment, service, and sustainable development research fields, more fields are included. Thus, RCEP’s most recent perspectives and research from recent scholars are available to future researchers (Zreik 2022).

Journal co-citation analysis is a bibliometric technique for examining the interconnections and connections between academic publications focused on citation patterns (Hu et al. 2010). The journal co-citation analysis can identify the intellectual structure of the field, including core journals and subject fields (Kim 2013; Liu et al. 2016). Journal co-citation analysis studies are less prevalent than other co-citation analyses (such as author co-citation and literature co-citation). However, numerous researchers use journal co-citation analysis to finish field studies. For instance, a study with corporate governance topics identifies the core journals and subject fields with journal co-citation analysis (Ellili 2022). This study’s journal co-citation analysis is sufficient to support intellectual structure research in the RCEP field.

Keyword co-occurrence analysis is one of the standard methods used in bibliometrics analysis (Gorzeń-Mitka et al. 2020). With keyword co-occurrence analysis, researchers can provide insights into the structure and trends of identified research data sets. For instance, a study on healthy eating could use keyword co-occurrence analysis to discover the knowledge structure and future trends (Fang et al. 2023). Another study, through keyword co-occurrence analysis, identified research hotspots and food safety management trends among RCEP members (Li, 2023). Currently, keyword co-occurrence analysis is utilised in numerous research disciplines, including solar cell technology (Yoon et al. 2010), information retrieval (Lou and Qiu 2014), efficiency analysis (Lozano et al. 2019), digital economy (Kruljac 2021), biliary dilatation (Chen et al. 2023), organic agriculture (Kato et al. 2023), morphological awareness (Gu and Liu 2023), and e-leadership (Krisnafitriana et al. 2023). Thus, this study uses keyword co-occurrence to identify the research frontier and analyse trends.

This article examines journal co-citations and keyword co-occurrence of RCEP articles published in Web of Science (WoS) by CiteSpace to aid academics in better understanding the knowledge map of RCEP research and discovering the potential for establishing frontiers. The remaining sections of the study are organised as follows. In part 2, the research techniques and data sources are introduced. In Part 3, the findings of the analysis of the knowledge map are reported. In Part 4, the principal knowledge map analysis topics are concluded.

Methods and data sources


In the study, the researchers used a bibliometric approach to visual analysis. Researchers selected visual analysis with CiteSpace from many visual analysis software programs. Initially, a new visual analysis with the knowledge domain co-citation network was developed by Chen (2004). In 2006 CiteSpace II introduced Burst detection, citation tree-ring, and time zone views (Chen 2006). Since 2010, an increasing number of analyses have been refined with the gradual evolution of CiteSpace software, including cluster labelling (Chen et al. 2010), structural variation analysis (Chen 2012), cascading citation expansion (Chen and Song 2019), and citation contexts and uncertainties (Chen 2020). Currently, CiteSpace is due to more extensive features, more steady operation, and better suitability for the study (Chen 2020). Thus, CiteSpace was frequently utilised for analysing studies in each domain, both natural and social science research (Ge et al. 2022; Li et al. 2022b; Li and Luo 2021; Ma et al. 2022). By the recommendation of Chen (2006), co-citation analysis, co-occurrence analysis, burst detection, and cluster analysis are all employed to analyse this RCEP research. The research frontier and trend can be detected by the researcher.

Data Sources

The word “RCEP” was a guiding principle throughout the study. The topic = “RCEP” or topic = “The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership” was used to search the WoS database for English-language publications published between January 2012 and January 2023. Table 1 and Fig. 1 illustrate the results of this search. Three hundred and one results were obtained. Between 2012 and 2022, the number of publications and articles cited in other papers increased. Especially for the years 2021 and 2022, the figure exhibited an incredible pace of expansion.

Table 1 Data Retrieval Result.
Fig. 1: Total number of WoS indexed articles between 2012 and 2023.
figure 1

The retrieval results and citations in WoS between 2012 and 2023.

Data pre-processing

In this study, the data pre-processing is completed in two stages. The initial stage is deduplication in CiteSpace (Tang et al. 2023). Duplicated data were not found. The data clean-up and summaries are the next stage. Before keyword co-occurrence analysis, a clean keyword summary facilitates researchers to distil the research frontier and trend analysis better.


Intellectual structure of RCEP: journal co-citation analysis

This part addressed the journal co-citation analysis of several different publications. An examination of journal co-citations reveals the intellectual structure of the field in RCEP research (Kim 2013; Liu et al. 2016). That is a list of the most renowned and cutting-edge publications that publish articles and papers on RCEP research. Not only can particular areas of the present study be specified to assist researchers in identifying future research opportunities, but they can also act as a guide for assessing future research prospects. This can be accomplished by describing ongoing research areas. In addition, this can aid researchers in selecting a journal to publish their findings.

As shown in Table 2, all the periodicals are indexed by ISI (nine SSCI journals and one SCIE journal). The five most prestigious journals in economics are the American Economic Review, Economic Modelling, Journal of Cleaner Production, Econometrica, and Journal of International Economic Law. Comparing the journals to the top 10 published journals, the researcher discovered five additional journals were also in the top 10 (i.e., Sustainability, World Economy, Journal of Internation Economic Law, Journal of World Trade, Economic Modelling).

Table 2 Top 10 Journals by Citation.

Journal cluster analysis

The clustering pattern of the journal co-citation network is presented in Fig. 2. As depicted in Fig. 2, the network comprises seven clusters. The seven most significant clusters are presented in Table 3. The largest cluster (RCEP economies) contains 17 members, with a silhouette value of 0.98. Zhang and Wang (2022)’s paper is the most frequently cited for cluster 0 RCEP economies. The second-largest cluster (States-CHINA trade) has fourteen members and a silhouette value of 0.94. The most frequently cited article in the cluster is Ravenhill (2016). China is cluster 2, the third largest cluster, with a silhouette value of 0.951 and thirteen members. In addition, it is designated as having a silhouette value of 0.951. Most of the 2 clusters’ citations are to the essay by Du (2015). All silhouettes are more than 0.9, indicating an acceptable clustering (Chen 2017). Notably, after 2019, publications focused on RCEP economies, advanced research methods, green environments, CO2 emissions (global carbon emissions pressure and three-stage SBM-DEA model), dairy trade, and global value chain participation.

Fig. 2: Journal co-citation network clustering diagram.
figure 2

The network diagram of the journal co-citation clusters reveals the journals of RCEP research.

Table 3 Summary of the largest 7 clusters.

Journal bursts analysis

Table 4 shows the top 10 ranked journals by bursts. Cluster 2’s Transpacific Partner (2015) has 7.67 total bursts, making it the item with the highest bursts ranking. Guiding Principles and Objectives for Negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is the second contender in Cluster 2 and has bursts of 5.86. (2012). The third publication is the Journal of Contemporary Asia (2015), located in Cluster 5, with five bursts. Diplomat (2016), placed in Cluster 5 and having bursts of 5.00, ranks fourth. Cluster 5’s The Pacific Review (2010) ranks fifth, with average bursts of 4.76. The East Asia Forum (2012), located in Cluster 5 and has bursts of 4.57, occupies the sixth slot. The seventh position is held by New Directions Asiap (2014), which is located in Cluster 1 and has 4.57 bursts. The eighth-ranked publication in the Journal of Asian Economics (2011) is in Cluster 1 and has bursts of 4.35. The Financial Times (2014), located in Cluster 5 and has bursts of 4.17, occupies the ninth position. The Journal of Cleaner Production (2017) is tenth in Cluster 0 and has 3.55 bursts.

Table 4 The top 10 ranked journal by bursts.

Figure 3 displays the top 25 cited journals with the most significant citation growth over the past few years. Figure 3 displays the most vital reference from Transpacific Partner (2015). This is the identical citation that appears in Table 4. Not the most recent three years, but between 2015 and 2019 is the most significant end year for a citation. Six journals (non-economics and nontrade) in the top 25 cited journals merit the attention of researchers. One is the Pacific Review (2010), the bursts between 2014 and 2019. Another is the Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law (2017), which bursts between 2018 and 2019. The Journal of Cleaner Production (2017) is the most significant citation in the past three years. In addition, Environmental Science and Pollution Research (2020), Science of the Total Environment (2020), and Energy Economics (2018) are the other three journals with a high number of citations during the past three years. Thus, in the last three years, the hot fields of RCEP research have overlaid green, sustainable science, technology, engineering, environmental, environmental sciences and economics.

Fig. 3: Top 25 cited journals with the strongest citation bursts.
figure 3

The strongest citation bursts reveal the hot fields of RCEP research.

Journal degree analysis

Table 5 presents the top ten most prestigious periodicals by degree. The Journal of Asian Economics (2011) in Cluster 1 has a degree of 7, making it the highest-ranking journal in the degree analysis. Cluster 4 contains Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews (2017), which gets a grade of 6. Pacific Review (2010), which belongs to Cluster 5 and has a grade of 5, is ranked third. Environmental Science and Pollution Research (2020), which belongs to Cluster 4 and has a grade of 5, is ranked fourth. Cluster 1 places The World Economy (2014), which has a grade of 5, in fifth place. The Journal of International Economic Law (2013), included in Cluster 3 and has a grade of 5, placed sixth. America’s Threat to Trans-Pacific Trade (2011) in Cluster 2 occupies the seventh position with a degree of five. The eighth position is held by Transpacific Partner (2015), a Cluster 2 member with a degree of 4. The Financial Times (2014), which belongs to Cluster 5 and has a grade of 4, occupies the ninth position. The ERIA Discussion Paper (2013) ranks tenth with a grade of four and is in Cluster 1. In fact, besides the hot field of RCEP research, journals around more fields, such as business, finance, law, politics, public policy, international relations, and area studies.

Table 5 Top 10 ranked journal by degree.

Journal centrality analysis

Table 6 displays the top ten journals by centrality. Cluster 1’s item with the highest centrality is The World Economy (2014), with 0.75. Cluster 1’s second journal is the Journal of Asian Economics (2011), with a centrality of 0.61. Third in Cluster 0 is Empirical Economics (2021), with a centrality of 0.58. Financial Times (2014) ranks fourth in Cluster 5, with a centrality of 0.52. The fifth in Cluster 1 is Strategic Analysis (2014), with 0.49 centrality. Sixth in Cluster 0 is Energy Economics (2018), with 0.43 centrality. Environmental Science and Pollution Research (2020) ranks seventh in Cluster 4 with a 0.36 centrality score. In Cluster 2, the eighth is America’s Threat to Trans-Pacific Trade (2011), with 0.33 centrality. The ninth ERIA Discussion Paper (2013) in Cluster 1 has a 0.32 centrality. The tenth in Cluster 0 is Energy Policy (2019), with a centrality of 0.27. Interestingly, the journals of Economics are more central than the environmental studies, environmental sciences, energy, and fuel fields. In other words, the new fields of RCEP research are environmental studies, environmental sciences, energy, and fuels. In addition, the hot fields of green, sustainable science, technology, and engineering are the newest fields of RCEP research.

Table 6 Top 10 ranked journal by centrality.

Overall, the researchers determined that the intellectual structure of RCEP research covers a wide range. Green, sustainable science, technology, engineering, environmental (sciences), and economics are RCEP’s hottest research fields. RCEP’s new research fields include environmental studies, environmental sciences, energy, and fuels. In contrast, the hot disciplines of green, sustainable science, technology, and engineering represent the newest fields of RCEP research.

Research frontier and trend: keyword co-occurrence analysis

This part analyses the keyword co-occurrence analysis of 301 publications. An evaluation of keyword co-occurrence reveals the research frontier and trend of RCEP research (Fang et al. 2023). Specifically, keyword cluster and bursts analysis detect the research frontier and trend.

Keyword cluster analysis

In this part, the researcher analyses the co-occurrence of keywords. In this study, CiteSpace is utilised for the keyword co-occurrence analysis of RCEP research. The keyword co-occurrence network is depicted in Fig. 4. Table 7 displays the top ten co-occurrences of terms. Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Free Trade Agreement (FTA), commerce, RCEP, China, economic growth, impact, CO2 emissions, economic integration, and international trade are among scholars’ top 10 most popular keywords. China, international trade, impact, trade, economic growth, and CO2 emissions are closely associated with RCEP between 2022 and 2023.

Fig. 4: Keyword co-occurrence network diagram.
figure 4

The network diagram of the keyword co-occurrence reveals the most popular keywords of RCEP research.

Table 7 Top 10 keywords co-occurrence.

In this study, 6 clusters were identified by keyword co-occurrence analysis. Figure 5 shows all 6 clusters. The six most significant clusters are presented in Table 8. The largest cluster (0) contains 36 articles, with a silhouette value of 0.766. Dong et al. (2021)’s article is the most frequently cited for cluster 0. The second-largest cluster (1) has 31 articles and a silhouette value of 0.809. The most frequently cited article in Cluster 1 is Mahadevan and Nugroho (2019). The third largest cluster is cluster 2, with a silhouette value of 0.789 and 26 articles. Most of cluster 2’s citations are to the essay by Solís and Wilson (2017). All silhouettes are over 0.75, indicating reasonable clustering (Chen 2017). Thus, with keyword co-occurrence analysis, the research frontier of RECP research is around labels such as energy efficiency, RCEP economies, and foreign direct investment.

Fig. 5: Keyword co-occurrence network clustering diagram.
figure 5

The network diagram of the keyword co-occurrence cluster reveals the most keyword significant clusters of RCEP research.

Table 8 Summary of the 6 keyword co-occurrence clusters.

Keyword bursts analysis

Figure 6 depicts the top 25 most common keywords co-occurring that have shown the most substantial growth in co-occurrence over the previous few years. The most substantial explosion represents the development and trend of RCEP research. The keyword bursts analysis presents three distinct periods of development. The first period is from 2012 to 2017. The RCEP research originated in the context of Asia-Pacific economic integration. Building trade agreements is one of the essential points in Asia-Pacific economic integration (Wilson 2014). Over this period, most research revolves around the TPP, China-Japan-Korea FTA, FTA, and free trade. The main topic in the second period between 2018 and 2019 is the TPP. Many topics outside typical trade measures, such as public health, politics, and policy (Labonté et al. 2016; Petri and Plummer 2016), are the bursts of keywords in this period. The third period starts in 2020. With the successful signing of the RCEP, the emphasis of RCEP research turned progressively to green and sustainable (CO2 emission, energy consumption, and sustainable development), economic (panel data), trade (rules of origin), and manufacture (productivity) (Bhat et al. 2022; Dong et al. 2021; Guo and Mai 2023; Hassan et al. 2021; Park et al. 2021; Tian et al. 2022).

Fig. 6: Top 33 keywords co-occurrence with the strongest bursts.
figure 6

The strongest bursts reveal the development and trend of RCEP research.

Generally, with the keyword co-occurrence analysis of RCEP research, the researcher identifies three distinct periods (2012 to 2017, 2018 to 2019, and after 2019) and the research frontier of RCEP research. Moreover, within the realm of RCEP research, the identified research frontiers encapsulate several critical thematic areas that have garnered substantial scholarly attention. These frontiers encompass not only the economic aspects of the agreement but also delve into the intricacies of international trade dynamics. Additionally, a discernible focus is on promoting green and sustainable development, reflecting the increasing emphasis on environmental considerations in global economic partnerships. Last, the field of manufacturing within the context of the RCEP has emerged as a notable frontier, indicating the role of this trade agreement in shaping manufacturing strategies and supply chain dynamics among member nations. These multifaceted research frontiers underscore the complex and evolving nature of RCEP as a subject of academic enquiry. In RCEP research, scholars have increasingly concentrated on various fields, not just economics and trade.


Using the WoS database, the researcher conducts thorough visual evaluations of RCEP articles from 2012 to 2023. These analyses included journal co-citation analysis, comprising journal cluster analysis, journal bursts analysis, journal degree analysis, and journal centrality analysis. The researcher also conducts keyword co-occurrence analysis, which includes keyword cluster analysis and keyword bursts analysis. Using this comprehensive approach, it is possible to acquire significant insights into the dynamics and trends of the RCEP research scene during the past eleven years.

First, the researcher identifies three distinct periods of RCEP research with a comprehensive review of previously conducted research. (1) The period from 2012 to 2017 is the first period of RCEP research. In this period, different countries developed multiple potential FTAs (such as the TPP and the China-Japan-Korea FTA) based on Asia-Pacific economic integration (Das 2015; Huy 2013; Korhonen 2013; Townsend et al. 2016; Urata 2014; Zahid 2018). References to relationships appear in economic and trade periodicals at a higher rate throughout this period. (2) In 2018-2019, the fields of RCEP research are exceeded. More scholars with a broader scope of enquiry joined the RCEP research. During this period, scholars shifted to fields such as public health, politics, and policy (Labonté et al. 2016; Petri and Plummer 2016), focusing on RCEP research (Liu et al. 2018). (3) After 2019, RCEP research will be expedited. Relevant scholars have gradually redirected the focus from the original RCEP research to related disciplines such as green, sustainable development, and manufacturing (Bashir et al. 2022; Dong et al. 2021; Latif et al. 2023; Li et al. 2022a; Meng 2020; Qian et al. 2022; Qiu and Gong 2021; Shingal, 2022).

In addition, concerning the existing RCEP research fields, only economics, trade, public health, politics, policy, green, sustainable development, and manufacturing are included, which has significant limits. With the economic changes from the RCEP, the scope of the RCEP’s impact will extend to many more trade-related fields (such as services, human resources, and education). More excellent academics will join RCEP research.

This study utilised solely data from the WoS. A single source of information will eventually result in limitations. Therefore, more excellent publishing sources may have been used to prevent study limitations.