The national security research community in Beijing is dominated by think tanks and other research institutes affiliated with specific governmental institutions. The People's Liberation Army (PLA) maintains its own set of internal and affiliated research institutions, performing a variety of intelligence, exchange and research functions. The growth and professionalization of the Chinese military think tank community, combined with the widening degree of interaction between PLA researchers and foreigners presents a new set of challenges and opportunities for scholarly research. On the one hand, the new environment complicates the task of outside scholars as they seek to understand the biases and reliability of new sources of information. At the same time, it offers foreign scholars an unprecedented opportunity to test theories, delve into new research and improve understanding of the PLA. This article examines the roles, missions and composition of the units in this system, assesses the influence, authoritativeness and utility of the output from these organs, and offers some preliminary implications for Western study of the Chinese military.