I had a chance to participate in this extended discussion on the future of think tanks as the director of the Asia Institute which was held in Beijing. The event, which was conducted in Chinese, was hosted by the Center for China and Globalization whose President Wang Huiyao was invited me to join the discussion. See the article below in China Plus.
January 30, 2018
Seven Chinese think tanks have been included among the world’s top think tanks in the 2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report, published by the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania.
Wang Huiyao is president of the Center for China and Globalization, one of the Chinese think tanks to make the list.
An advisor to the State Council, Wang Huiyao suggests more think tanks – as well as upgrades to the existing ones – are needed to help the government and the public make informed decisions amid unprecedented economic challenges.
“Think tanks will not survive if they don’t innovate. Think tanks are ‘idea factories’ that can influence’ public policies, which I think is very important. We are not consulting firms. Think tanks are non-profit and are supposed to provide better ideas for the public and the making of public policy.”
Ding Yifan is a senior researcher with National Strategy Institute with Tsinghua University.
He says think tanks today are faced with huge challenges amid mounting populist sentiment.
“Think tanks need to find ways to provide rational and comprehensive ideas to decision-makers. Decisions on public policy cover a wide range of aspect. Rational ideas can be hard to accept when there is an explosion of populism. Many global think tanks are faced with just such challenges.”
In China, most think-tanks are backed by the government or run through the country’s university system.
And while the rise in social media has seen these institutions faced with a new level immediate public scrutiny for their concepts, Liu Qian head of Greater China for “The Economist,” says its up to these institutions to rise above the noise to provide sound advice to policy makers.
” I think the most important thing for researchers is insight. The development of new media does have an impact on us. But we’ve found that while the public usually notes the latest news on twitter, facebook and other social media outlets, they invariably turn to us to see like what ‘The Economist’ says. In an era of information explosions, we spend a lot of time and energy on doing researches and investigation for a report. Although the public may sometimes be affected by various sentiments, they almost always realize the importance of insight and rational thought.”
Selected from a list of over 170 top think tanks around the world, seven Chinese think tanks on the list include China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, which is the best performer, ranking the highest among the Chinese groups on the list at 29.
The report shows the United States has the largest number of think tanks, at over 18-hundred, while China sits second with over 500, followed by the UK and India.