Friday, May 8, 2015

Zhou Zhixing’s brief bi-monthly thoughts, 2015.05.08

1, A few days ago I went to a senior forum about Chinese and American think tanks in Tsinghua University - Brookings’ Institute. Chairman Xi pointed out that we need to develop think tanks with Chinese characteristics. Therefore, there is an elevated status of think tanks in China. It is said the US has the largest numbers of think tanks, over 1000. And China ranks the second, with over 400. It seems that China will definitely have a great leap forward and will outnumber the US. Therefore some people say that we should definitely control the number of think tanks. This is indeed reasonable, however, I think what is more important is the quality. If we bring up the quantity control right now, then the administrative bureaus might eliminate the existence of private think tanks without any powerful connections. Among them there might be a future Brookings Institute. Therefore, I don’t advocate limiting the development at this stage. To the contrary, I think we need to have better conditions, let young plants grow bigger. Let there be natural selection from fair competition.

2, Speaking of the independence of think tanks, I am very earthy and money is the first thing that comes into my mind. The independence of a think tank primarily relies on its economic independence. There are many so-called think tanks in China that are actually fully sponsored by the government. Therefore, they are actually a writing team for the government, or a department of policy justification for the government. Right now, private donations from entrepreneurs - big or small mostly go to philanthropy or charity, very few of them direct to think tanks. If there is any, it’s mostly conditioned. Think tanks have become executional organizations for the bosses. I think the government should first have clear policies to encourage private or corporate donation to think tanks. There should also be regulation that research themes of think tanks should be free from the control of donors. If the research subject is sensitive, its donors are also free from any responsibility. Of course, a very important element is that the think tank itself needs to be good, professional and trusted.

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