A practical guide to China's 29 ”national high-end think tanks”
And a Google sheet you can refer to and share
If China is so important, then it makes sense to follow its top think tanks. Today’s newsletter is not gonna be newsworthy at all, but a roadmap to China’s 国家高端智库 national high-end think tanks. As of now, January 2021, there are 29 of them.
Some analysis below, but mostly legwork. There is a Google sheet that you can see and share in the end.
The point of this issue of Pekingnology is to reduce your workload by adding one minor block to the badly-needed China knowledge infrastructure in the English-language world.
There are simply too many Chinese institutions/think tanks these days, and their names are sometimes very similar, so you may get easily confused. And it’s very possible you don’t know which one Chinese think tank is regarded by Beijing as top-tier. Then this is your first step.
Maybe you’ll check (some of) them once a week/month to see if there are any significant updates. One catch here is many of these think tanks only provide English-language content in a very limited fashion.
Your Pekingnologist hopes this helps English-speakers know more about China’s think tanks, and by extension what and how China thinks and sees itself and the world. On the other hand, this may help them get their messages out. Either way, this may contribute even just a little bit to helping increase understanding.
The first time that think tanks feature prominently in the Chinese official context after the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) is the 中共中央关于全面深化改革若干重大问题的决定 Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Some Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively Deepening the Reform (full text, CHN & ENG) adopted at the 3rd Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee in November 2013, which calls for 加强中国特色新型智库建设 strengthening the building of a new type [of] think tank with Chinese characteristics.
Then came the official document《关于加强中国特色新型智库建设的意见》(full text, CHN), Opinions on Strengthening the Building of a New Type [of] Think Tanks with Chinese Characteristics, publicized on January 20, 2015.
You can read it in full if you need to, but here are some excerpts
-- Adhere to the leadership of the Party, and the correct direction. Adhere to the Party's management of think tanks, adhere to the direction of socialism with Chinese characteristics, comply with the national constitution and laws and regulations, always to safeguard the national interest and the interests of the people as the fundamental starting point, based on China's national conditions, fully reflect the Chinese characteristics and Chinese style.
--Adhere to serve the work of the Center, focusing on the Big Picture. Coalesce around the major issues that the Party and the government urgently need in decision-making, around the major tasks in comprehensively building a moderately prosperous society, comprehensively deepening reform, and comprehensively promoting the rule of law, to carry out forward-looking, targeted, preparatory policy research, put forward professional, constructive, practical policy recommendations, and strive to improve the comprehensive research and strategic planning capabilities.
--Adhere to the spirit of science and encourage bold exploration. Insist on seeking truth and pragmatism, linking theory with practice, strengthening the awareness of targeti,ng problems, actively suggesting ideas, advocating different academic views and different policy proposals for discussion and equal discussion, creating a good environment that is conducive to the role of think tanks and positive, healthy, and upbeat.
--Adhere to reform and innovation, (pursue) conformative and orderly development. Oriented by public service, and in accordance with the characteristics of non-profit institutions, actively promote the reform of different types of think tanks based on their classifications. Scientifically define of the functions and positioning of various types of think tanks. Strengthen top-level design, coordination, and guidance based on their types, highlight their (respective) advantages and characteristics, adjust and optimize the layout of think tanks in China, and promote the orderly development of various types of think tanks.
NOTE: The think tanks must uphold the leadership of the Communist Party of China, focus on issues that are the major issues facing the Party and government, and conduct “bold explorations” within that framework. The think tanks are pre-determined to fall into certain types or classifications, so as to play their respective parts of an optimized, orderly Big Picture of think tanks.
Overall goal. By 2020, we will coordinate and promote the coordinated development of think tanks under the Party and government departments, the academies of social sciences, Party schools and academies of governance, universities, the military, research institutes, enterprises and social (groups). We will form a system of new-type think tanks with Chinese characteristics that have clear positioning, distinctive features, moderate scale and reasonable layout. We will emphasize on building a number of high-end think tanks with greater influence and international awareness, create a team of public policy research and decision-making advisory teams that adhere to the correct political direction, are moral and talented, and are rich in innovation. We will establish a set of management system and operational mechanism that is well governed, dynamic and well supervised for the new type of think tanks with Chinese characteristics, to give full play to the important functions of new-type think tanks with Chinese characteristics, such as advisory on policy, theoretical innovation, public opinion guidance, social services and public diplomacy.
NOTES: The whole paragraph, in its original Chinese, is in fact one sentence. It’s been cut into different sentences for greater clarity. But this is key to understand the “top-level design” for China’s think tanks:
1) The most basic classification - from a purely practical approach - of think tanks is who 领导 leads them. Those in the leading role could be, as Party and government departments, the academies of social sciences, Party schools and academies of governance, universities, the military, research institutes, enterprises, and social (groups). Or, the think tanks could be these bodies themselves.
2) Members of China’s think tanks shall 坚持正确政治方向 adhere to the correct political direction.
3) Their functions are 咨政建言、理论创新、舆论引导、社会服务、公共外交 advisory on policy, theoretical innovation, public opinion guidance, social services, and public diplomacy.
4) There won’t be an unlimited wave of national high-end think tanks and think-tankers because of 规模适度 moderate scale.
5) Perhaps except a few of them, most think tanks are expected to focus on a few specific areas, rather than taking a broad curriculum, because of 定位明晰, 特色鲜明 and 布局合理 clear positioning, distinctive features, and reasonable layout.
This document doesn’t name specific think tanks.
On Nov. 9, 2015, the 中央全面深化改革领导小组第十八次会议 (readout via Xinhua, CHN) 18th meeting of the central leading group for comprehensively deepening reform adopted《国家高端智库建设试点工作方案》Pilot Work Plan on Building National High-end Think Tanks. Your Pekingologist can not find the plan on the Internet.
Shortly after that, 新京报 The Beijing News, reported (CHN) on Dec. 3
Recently, the Meeting on Building National High-end Think Tanks was held in Beijing. A total of 25 institutions were selected as the first batch of piloting units as national high-end think tanks.
According to informed sources, the first batch of selected institutions are broadly divided into four types.
The first category is comprehensive research institutions directly under the Party Central Committee, the State Council and the Central Military Commission, with a total of ten.
中央编译局 Central Compilation & Translation Bureau http://www.dswxyjy.org.cn/ and http://www.theorychina.org/
军事科学院 Academy of Military Sciences
国防大学 National Defense University.
The second category is specialized think tanks established upon universities and research institutions, with a total of 12.
国家发改委宏观经济研究院 Academy of Macroeconomic Research, National Development and Reform Commission
The third category is think tanks based upon large state-owned enterprises. There is only one 中国石油经济技术研究院 Economics & Technology Research Institute, China National Petroleum Corporation
The fourth category is social think tanks with solid foundations. There are two:
1) The 中央党校 Central Party School and 国家行政学院 Chinese Academy of Governance merged into one institution in 2018. So that turns 25 to 24.
2) Despite the China Center for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE) is widely reported as a government think tank, but it is in the Chinese official text described as 社会智库 social think tank. This is probably alluding to its relatively independent status. For example, Economics & Technology Research Institute is strictly one part of China National Petroleum Corporation. But probably CCIEE does not have such a Big Daddy.
3) The Beijing News didn’t give a name to its source on this. In fact, serious Chinese media don’t often use anonymous sources on something important within the Chinese context or could be easily refuted by relevant authorities. So when they do, like citing informed sources here, give them the benefit of the doubt. Your Pekingnologist sees no problem with the list here.
Then came March 2020, when a piece of news appeared on Zhejiang University website saying
Approved by the twelfth meeting of the Central Commission for Comprehensively Deepening Reform, the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee officially announced the list of five new national high-end think tank pilot units on March 2, and Regional Coordinated Development, Zhejiang University, was officially selected. At present, there are 29 national high-end think tank pilot units, among which there are only 8 university think tanks.
But the news didn’t specify which other four are. Upon reading and Googling, your Pekingnologist can confirm the other four are:
(They have either added their high-end think tank qualifications to their introduction or disclosed that in some other authoritative way, all based on open-source information.)
NOTES: To find which probably one suits your interests or needs, read their names.
If you want to follow China’s education, then it’s apparently the China Institute of Education and Social Development, Beijing Normal University.
If you want to follow China’s fossil fuel industry, it’s Economics & Technology Research Institute, China National Petroleum Corporation.
China’s Pearl River Delta or Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area? Beijing has already chosen the Institute of Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao Development Studies, Sun Yat-sen University.
China’s take on International law? Wuhan University Institute of International Law.
China’s foreign trade? Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, Ministry of Commerce
China’s Yangtze Delta or Shanghai-Jiangsu-Zhejiang-Anhui region? Maybe Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
By the way, Institute for Contemporary China Studies, Tsinghua University is headed by Hu An’gang.
The economist Fan Gang? That’s China Development Institute (China-Shenhen).
To save you some time, here is a Google sheet called China’s 29 state-certified National High-end Think Tanks that you can share.
Thanks for reading. Hope you find this non-news, non-analysis useful, especially in the long term.
Errors may well exist, so suggestions for corrections and feedback are welcome - feel free to reply or send an email to email@example.com .