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«THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION THINK TANKS IN CHINA: GROWING INFLUENCE AND POLITICAL LIMITATIONS Washington, DC Thursday, October 23, 2008 ANDERSON COURT ...»

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CHINA-2008/10/23

THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION

THINK TANKS IN CHINA: GROWING INFLUENCE AND

POLITICAL LIMITATIONS

Washington, DC

Thursday, October 23, 2008

ANDERSON COURT REPORTING

706 Duke Street, Suite 100

Alexandria, VA 22314

Phone (703) 519-7180 Fax (703) 519-7190

2

CHINA-2008/10/23

PARTICIPANTS:

Welcome:

JEFFREY A. BADER

Director, John L. Thornton China Center

Moderator:

CHENG LI

Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, John L. Thornton China Center

Featured Panelists:

MURRAY SCOT TANNER

China Security Analyst, CNA

LILI WANG

Visiting Research Fellow, John L. Thornton China Center

JAMES G. MCGANN

Assistant Director, International Relations Program, University of Pennsylvania *****

ANDERSON COURT REPORTING

706 Duke Street, Suite 100 Alexandria, VA 22314 Phone (703) 519-7180 Fax (703) 519-7190 3 CHINA-2008/10/23

PROCEEDINGS

MR. BADER: Well, good afternoon everybody. I’m Jeffrey Bader, Director of the John L. Thornton China Center at the Brookings Institution. And I welcome you to this event, this program, on think tanks in China. All of us love talking about what we do for a living, so I can’t imagine a topic that we enjoy talking about more than think tanks, and so this one is a particular pleasure for us. We are very pleased to have three distinguished speakers who will be presenting to you different aspects of China’s think tanks, present and future. Our Senior Fellow, Cheng Li, will introduce the speakers. A week doesn’t go by when those of us at Brookings, and probably most of you in this room, aren’t visited by someone from some think tank in Beijing or Shanghai, trying to get information, thinking about public policy issues in China -- ah, in the United States -- and trying to persuade us of the wisdom of policy in China. This is a development that is relatively new. I think twenty years ago you didn’t see this kind of thing in China. It’s a reflection of the degree to which the public policy arena in China is becoming more public, that there are more and more players, more actors, who are affecting policy.

I’d like to get into the program as soon as possible, and so I’d just like to turn it over to Cheng Li right now to moderate our panel.

ANDERSON COURT REPORTING

706 Duke Street, Suite 100 Alexandria, VA 22314 Phone (703) 519-7180 Fax (703) 519-7190

–  –  –

this panel discussion. Before introducing the distinguished panelists, I would like to spend a few minutes providing some background information about the rapid rise of Chinese think tanks during the past two decades, especially in the recent years.

–  –  –

course, not new in China. We may argue that think tanks played an important role as early as the time of Confucius. But in contemporary China, the role of think tanks has been quite limited and by no means institutionalized. The influence of think tanks has largely depended on the top leadership. Mao Zedong disregarded rationality in government policy and openly looked down on intellectuals. Mao made all major decisions during his reign. Mao alone was responsible for the launch of the Cultural Revolution; the move of China’s national defense industry to the so-called interior “third front”, a sort of front; and the reconciliation with the United States in the 1970s. According to Hung Dao of Zhejiang University, Mao himself made all these decisions. Now while Deng Xiaoping greatly improved the economic and socio-political status of intellectuals, during his rule, he never saw the need to consult think tanks when making decisions. In fact, in his final years, Deng preferred to listen to his

–  –  –

political and economic affairs of the Party in the government in the 1980s, they were the patrons of some liberal intellectuals who are usually affiliated with think tanks within the Chinese government. These scholars were later involved in the 1987 liberal movement and the 1989 Tiananmen rally. These two events brought about the fall of both Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. Some think tanks were closed as a result of Tiananmen, but the think tank system has nevertheless survived and has become increasingly institutionalized. Throughout the 1990s, Zhao Ziyang was often idolized by scholars from Fudan University -- mainly from Shanghai as well as from the East China University of Political Science and Law, and the Shanghai Institute of International Affairs. Several prominent scholars even moved to Beijing in the 1990s and worked closely with Zhao Ziyang in the areas of policy planning, Taiwan affairs, and foreign relations. For example, Wang Huning, former dean of the law school at the Fudan, later served as a personal assistant to Jiang Zemin, and is now a member of a six-person Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. It was widely believed that Wang Huning helped Zhao Ziyang develop the so-called theory of “the three represents”.





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Similarly, Hu Jintao turned the Central Party School into the most promising think tank of the 1990s when he served as the president of the school. Sun Qingju, then vice president of the Central Party School, played a crucial role in the development of Hu Jintao’s theory, the socalled “peaceful rise” or “peaceful development” of China. Under the leadership of Hu Jintao, university-based think tanks in Beijing have become increasingly influential. After Hu Jintao became Secretary General of the CCP, he has since regularly invited think tank members to give lectures to the Politburo Study Sessions. Thus far, fifty-two of these lectures have been given, and this does not include Politburo Policy Reviews by the members of think tanks. In 2006 the Chinese authorities announced a list of the top ten government-run think tanks, further enhancing their role. Now meanwhile, some other think tanks -- and especially those in the universities or in the private sector -- have attempted to exert influence on China’s decision-making process by offering a more critical view of government actions largely through the Chinese media.

–  –  –

growing importance of think tanks in China. First, the end of strong-man politics and the emergence of collective leadership have pushed policymakers to seek more legitimacy for their policy through Chinese

–  –  –

think tanks. Secondly, China’s growing integration with the world economy requires input from scholars with professional expertise, especially in the areas of foreign investment and foreign, or international, finance. The third factor is that the rapid development of China’s market economy has not only made the Chinese economic and socio-political structure more pluralistic, but it has also created many interest groups.

These interest groups, especially those in the business sector, have attempted to influence government policy and public opinion. Now these three trends will likely continue in the future. For those of us studying China from overseas, the dynamic interaction between the Chinese government on the one side and the country’s promising think tanks on the other side can offer insightful information on China’s future political trajectory.

–  –  –

scholars to present their expert analyses and diverging perspectives on this important subject. Dr. James McGann, on my immediate right, is a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia, and Director of a think tank and civil-society program. He is the author of numerous publications on the comparative study of think tanks, including

the famous 2007 report, which is entitled The Global “Go-To Think Tanks”:

The Leading Public Policy Research Organizations in the World. This

–  –  –

afternoon, Jim will share with us his recent research on think tanks and policy advice in China. Dr. Murray Scot Tanner, in the middle, is a China security analyst at the CNA, Center for Naval Analyses. He was the principle researcher on a comprehensive study of Chinese think tanks, which was published both in an edited volume and in a special issue of the journal The China Quarterly, in 2002. This volume has profoundly transformed our understanding of the function of think tanks in the Chinese decision-making process. This afternoon, Scot will focus on the changing role of Chinese think tanks and internal stability. Last but not least, Miss Wang Lili is a Visiting Scholar -- a Visiting Fellow -- at the John L. Thornton China Center here at Brookings, and also author of the best selling Chinese book, Green Media: Environmental Communication in China, that was the title of the English -- the Chinese -- book. Lili also serves as a television anchorwoman and a co-founder of the Chinese Environment Resource Network, a leading environment NGO in China.

She has spent the last year in the United States, comparing Chinese think tanks with their American counterparts. The title of her presentation is “Where Are Chinese Think Tanks Going?” I wish we knew where American think tanks are going. Each panelist will spend -- will talk for -to 20 minutes and we will have a Q&A following their presentations.

First, Scot.

–  –  –

today. I want to take this opportunity to thank Li Cheng, to thank Jeff Bader, and to thank the indefatigable Elizabeth Brooks for organizing this seminar today.

–  –  –

I’m going to speak a little bit about a broader -- a couple of broader -trends in the recent development of think tanks overall in China.

Secondly, I’m going to introduce the sector that I want to look at today, which are the think tanks and research institutes in China’s internal security system as part of a broader group of institutions that are interested in the study of maintaining social order in China. And third, I’m going to illustrate the role that has been played by some of those institutions, particularly the ones under the Ministry of Public Security, by looking at their study of unrest in China or the handling of what they refer to as “mass incidents.”

–  –  –

disclaimers. First of all, everything I have to say today are entirely my own views, not that of the CNA Corporation. If I say something foolish, please don’t blame the nice people at CNA. Secondly, the disclaimer of humility, which is that information to characterize any aspect of the Chinese policymaking process, particularly those things having to do with internal

–  –  –

security, is very hard to obtain, and so this presentation really represents merely my best assessments based on the available documentary and interview evidence.

–  –  –

conference in The China Quarterly, looking at the development of international relations -- of think tanks across a wide variety of sectors -really fine papers by Bonnie Glaser, David Shambaugh, Phil Saunders, a number of excellent people, they spoke in terms of the broad development of think tanks in China, and of changes over time that we thought we could generalize to most think tanks in China, that we could see patterns of development away from institutions that were largely insular, stovepiped, that didn’t share information with the outside world, that didn’t cooperate with each other on research. Earlier this spring, I had the opportunity to do some interviewing in China across a wide variety of issues, and in particular, focused on think tanks in two very different sectors, one of which was the internal security think tanks. And what I was struck with more than anything else was the vast difficulty in generalizing think tanks and their development at all. There were great, great differences between think tanks in one sector, one issue sector or issue in the community, and those in another. And I really came away with the impression that the key research question for us now is to ask

–  –  –

ourselves what variables explain the different roles, the different levels of influence, the different quality of research, that think tanks within different issue sectors, issue communities, have within their part of the system.

And it’s a number of factors, clearly the size and competitiveness of the issue community. There are small issue communities. There are enormous ones, such as the one that deals with social stability in China, the theoretical -- the different levels of theoretical and methodological development within an issue community. You know, my economist friends are continuously telling me about the great leap in sophistication -- bad metaphor -- great leap in sophistication of China’s economic think tanks in the last couple of decades, not a point that I would necessarily make about think tanks in a number of other issue sectors. Think tanks in some sectors have greater access to resources that allow them to publicize their message, and to spread their influence through a number of different channels, whether it’s greater access to finances, greater political access, greater access to the media, or other areas -- other forms of resource availability. But one that I want to focus on today as I talk about internal security is a very old one that goes back to the points that Li Cheng made earlier, which is the amount of intellectual space that the Chinese leadership gives to researchers working in a particular issue sector. Every issue sector in China, every issue community, has its own taboo areas,

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