Actually, the chart I posted on this page is by WIPO and it covers all the patents filed in all industries. (sorry for causing confusion).
However, if you compare the number of patents granted in the United States and in China in the semiconductor industry, it shows that China definitely began exceeding the US in the number of patents granted starting in 2005. You can see that chart here:
I file first in the US to get the most patent monopoly value for my budget. I feel that others are more likely to design products for the China market that they could not also sell in the US than that others would design products for the European or Japanese markets that they could not also sell in the US. Therefore I try to maximize my incremental increase in total monopolized market by filing second in China before Europe or Japan.
Before you knock the Chinese patent system as being "fatally flawed" take a good hard look at the US patent system. There's not much right with it. The Chineses will also have to upgrade their patent office website. Try it and see how much fun it is searching for patents and trying to make any kind of sense of the machine translations (if you can even access the original documents).
I don't find it surprising that these shifts are occurring. First, because the Chinese, at least now that the "cultural revolution" madness seems to be over, value education. Secondly, there are 4 Chinese citizens for every US citizen.
So, why should we be surprised to see that their patent filings are increasing rapidly? The way I see it, it was their own self-destructive government policies that kept the brakes on previously. I think their reliance on government to do all the thinking and planning is still slowing growth, but I don't see this lasting. As you have been reporting, people find ways around the obstacles, and government attitudes are sure to follow.