China’s think tanks need deeper understanding to reach audience overseas

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-4-23 21:53:01

Editor's Note:

In 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for developing domestic think tanks that have international influence and reputation. Why is going global so important? What efforts should Chinese think tanks make to gain more influence worldwide? Several scholars from China and the US shared their insights at a summit organized by the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy on Tuesday.

Kenneth Lieberthal, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution

In foreign policy, it requires not only you understand what the other government's policies are, but what shapes these policies. My experiences in China and the US show that both countries use the same words but understand them very differently. Each side has very few people who understand the political system, society and cultures on the other side.

If you want to foster cooperation and minimize misunderstanding, you need to have people who have deep knowledge of the way the other system functions, their concerns and meaning of words they use.

What China does influences tremendously our interests both directly and indirectly on major global issues, so we have interest in high-quality decision-making in China and understanding why China adopts a decision as it is and how it understands what we are doing because there is often considerable misunderstanding and accompanying distrust.

We can't totally eliminate that, but think tanks can act in a way that governments cannot do and can go deeply into understanding the thinking, concerns and assumptions that the other side is preparing to do. They can speak in a way that government officials cannot in deep dialogues and join research projects, which is vital.

Xia Yu, editor-in-chief of the Liaowang Institution, Xinhua News Agency

China's think tanks have gained strong momentum in recent years, but they are far behind foreign peers in terms of in-depth and scope. To go global, they have to build an international horizon and be adequately broad-minded. It's necessary to include pressing global issues into the study list of these think tanks. They should also set tangible goals for going global and adjust the operation mechanism to be consistent with international practices, such as remuneration system and diverse funding sources.

A think tank attached to a media outlet, like the Liaowang Institution, has its own advantages. This type of think tank is well-suited to provide abundant experiences and also channels to directly reach and influence policymakers. It is capable of presenting the research results in a highly readable way to government officials. But in the meantime, it doesn't have enough expertise, which is its biggest weakness, since journalists' observations are rarely equivalent to the scholars' research. It also lacks specialization since journalists always have to focus on a wide range of issues.

Making China's voices heard by the outside world has so far not gone as well as expected. For think tanks, they need to sort out a list of what other countries want to learn about. Other efforts include improving translations of specific Chinese contexts to others and picking proper fields to focus on. The Internet also offers effective options as think tanks can publicize their research projects and invite wide suggestions.

Posted in: Viewpoint

blog comments powered by Disqus