Chi­nese think tanks (II)

The Korea Times - - OPINION - Lee Seong-hyeon Lee Seong-hyon (sun­nybb­sfs@gmail.com), Ph.D., is di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Chi­nese Stud­ies at the Se­jong In­sti­tute.

Un­der the Chi­nese po­lit­i­cal land­scape, the lim­its of Chi­nese think tanks de­rive from their man­date to pro­vide logic to the govern­ment poli­cies, and there­fore a lack of au­ton­omy from the state. This par­tially ex­plains, for in­stance, why ef­forts by Korean think tanks and aca­demic ex­perts to per­suade Bei­jing to re­con­sider its re­tal­i­a­tion against Seoul (for host­ing a THAAD anti-mis­sile bat­tery) were un­avail­ing from the very be­gin­ning.

A per­son who par­tic­i­pated in some of those closed-door dis­cus­sions, and who tried to rea­son with his Chi­nese coun­ter­parts, later summed up his ex­pe­ri­ence as like “talk­ing to a wall.” That is not to say that such com­mu­ni­ca­tion ef­forts are un­nec­es­sary. The point is that they should keep this in mind when they sit down with the Chi­nese. Af­ter all, the chal­lenge for Chi­nese think tanks is how to achieve in­de­pen­dence and diversity of views, com­pa­ra­ble to their over­seas peer in­sti­tu­tions.

Hav­ing said that, in ad­di­tion to the pre­vi­ously men­tioned CICIR (China In­sti­tutes of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions), there are a few other ma­jor Chi­nese think thanks de­serv­ing our at­ten­tion. One is the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sciences (CASS). Es­tab­lished in 1977, CASS ranks top among the Chi­nese think tanks each year. It is also “the world’s largest think tank” with 4,000 peo­ple and 31 re­search di­vi­sions. It even has its own pub­lish­ing com­pany.

At the time of its es­tab­lish­ment, China’s Com­mu­nist Party lead­ers gave three pil­lars of man­dates to CASS: It should main­tain an un­wa­ver­ing sup­port for Marx­ism, it should keep its sta­tus as the supreme in­sti­tu­tion for Chi­nese philo­soph­i­cal and so­cial sci­ence re­search, and it should serve as an im­por­tant think tank for the State Coun­cil.

The cur­rent pres­i­dent is Xie Fuzhan, who worked for 20 years at the State Coun­cil’s De­vel­op­ment

Re­search Cen­ter. He was a vis­it­ing scholar at Har­vard Univer­sity, and served at the Na­tional Bu­reau of Sta­tis­tics and the Mon­e­tary Pol­icy Com­mit­tee of the Peo­ple’s Bank of China, which is China’s cen­tral bank.

Re­gard­ing the Korean Penin­sula, since 1993, CASS has pub­lished an aca­demic jour­nal, “Con­tem­po­rary Korea.” Schol­ars at CASS who visit Korea are usu­ally from its Na­tional In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Strat­egy that has a strong North­east Asia re­search port­fo­lio. In fact, its pre­vi­ous name was the Asia-Pa­cific Re­search In­sti­tute of CASS un­til 2012. There are a num­ber of well-known Korea spe­cial­ists at CASS, in­clud­ing Piao Jianyi who is known to make study tours to North Korea each year.

Among the re­search arms of CASS, other no­ta­bles are the In­sti­tute of World Eco­nom­ics and Pol­i­tics (IWEP) and the In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can Stud­ies (IAS). IWEP pro­vides re­search re­ports to ma­jor min­istries of the Chi­nese govern­ment, on top­ics such as WTO, global trade and eco­nomic strate­gies. It is also home to Yu Yongding, a renowned econ­o­mist who served as a mem­ber of the Peo­ple’s Bank of China’s mon­e­tary pol­icy com­mit­tee. Yu of­ten con­trib­utes to the Fi­nan­cial Times.

For Korea, the IAS also war­rants at­ten­tion, amid deep­en­ing ri­vary and com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the United States and China. It con­ducts all-around pol­icy stud­ies on the United States. More­over, there are schol­ars at IAS who con­duct re­search on North­east Asian strate­gies, in­clud­ing the Korean Penin­sula, un­der the larger China-U.S. re­la­tions con­text. Re­cently, the IAS added a new di­vi­sion, called the

Strate­gic Re­search Cen­ter. The cen­ter is known to ex­clu­sively fo­cus on up­dat­ing cur­rent geopo­lit­i­cal af­fairs on the ground and pro­vide pol­icy briefs to the govern­ment.

The China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies (CIIS), lo­cated near Tianan­men Square, is a spe­cial­ized re­search arm, di­rectly un­der China’s for­eign min­istry. It mainly car­ries out mid- and long-term re­search in such ar­eas as in­ter­na­tional diplo­macy and global econ­omy. Founded in 1956 as the In­sti­tute for In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions un­der the Chi­nese Academy of Sciences, it changed to its cur­rent name in 2014. The li­brary has China’s top in­ter­na­tional af­fairs book col­lec­tions and cur­rently has about 250,000 books and diplo­matic ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing in for­eign lan­guages: English, French, Rus­sian, Ger­man, Ja­panese and oth­ers.

Since 2017, CIIS has been headed by Qi Zhen­hong, a for­mer ca­reer diplo­mat, who served as China’s am­bas­sador to Bahrain. CIIS has three vice pres­i­dents. Among them, Ruan Zongze served as min­is­ter-coun­selor at the Chi­nese em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton from 2007 to 2011. Ruan is a well-known fig­ure who reg­u­larly ap­pears on the state-run CCTV to ex­plain China’s po­si­tion and views. No­table Korea watch­ers at CIIS in­clude Yu Shao­hua and Wu Jingjing, who have both served as Chi­nese diplo­mats in Py­ongyang. Yu has re­cently re­tired, but is still known to be ac­tively en­gaged in pol­icy re­search and ad­vis­ing the Chi­nese govern­ment.

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