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Government Advisors or Public Advocates? Roles of Think Tanks in China from the Perspective of Regional Variations*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 September 2011

Xufeng Zhu
Affiliation:
Nankai University. Email: zhuxufeng@nankai.edu.cn
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Think tanks in China simultaneously play advisory, academic and advocacy roles in the policy process. In this article, I recommend an analytical framework that evaluates think tanks by studying their specific activities in addition to their nature. Empirical data involving 301 think tanks in 25 provinces were collected through the China Think Tank Survey 2004. The 1998 regional Integrated Knowledge Development Index database was also used for the analysis. Based on these two independent sets of survey data, the article concludes that connections with the government and knowledge capacity in regions where think tanks are located are the two differing forces that drive China's think tanks to operate as either advisors or advocates. Moreover, these two determinants differentially influence the individual roles of the two types of think tanks.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The China Quarterly 2011

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References

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6 For example, the Unirule Institute of Economics (Tianze), founded by Mao Yushi and other economists in Beijing in 1993, used to be regarded as one of the most critical non-governmental think tanks in China. However, it conducted many government research projects, including those consigned by government agencies such as the Ministry of Construction, Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform, and bureaucracies in Shenzhen and Foshan (http://www.unirule.org.cn/SecondWeb/ConsignationInvestigation.asp).

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15 China's regulations for social organizations stipulate that each registered CNPI must be affiliated with a supervising unit endorsing its legitimacy. Supervising units can be government agencies or agencies authorized by the government. In some cases, think tanks have difficulty finding a supervising agency. They have to be registered as “companies,” although they mainly engage in non-profit activities.

16 Zhu and Xue, “Think tanks in transitional China,” p. 454. The authors interviewed four think tanks, showing the diversity of funding sources.

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29 Wang, Shaoguang, “Changing models of China's policy agenda setting,” Modern China, Vol. 34, No. 1 (2008), p. 68Google Scholar.

31 Available at http://www.cnki.net.

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