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Further Promote the Construction of National High-End Think Tanks with Reform and Innovation as Driving Forces


By Li Wei

Research Report Vol.17 No.5, 2015

The meeting on the pilot work of building national high-end think tanks was convened on Dec 1, 2015, which is the major event in the think tank community recently. High-end think tanks are supposed to play the leading role in building the new type of think tanks with Chinese characteristics, and in exploring the new ways for institutions and mechanisms, consultancy research and guiding public opinions. Some questions deserve thorough discussion like how to carry out the initiative of building national high-end think tanks, and how to realize the national goal to build high-end think tanks.

At the crucial phase when China is striving to make a well-off country, the Leading Group of Comprehensively Deepening Reform of the CPC Central Committee reviewed and approved the Plan for the Pilot Work of Building National High-End Think Tanks. It put forward the plan to establish a number of high-end think tanks which “are urgently needed in China, have distinct characteristics and innovative system, and can lead development”. It also calls for standardized policy-making study, research result transformation, examination and evaluation as well as research fund input. It distributes two documents on managing think tanks and funds for special projects. These documents fully show that the CPC Central Committee is committed to accelerating governance system modernization and advancing scientific, democratic and law-based decision-making. It can be said the construction of think tanks in China enters a new era of historic development. The Development Research Center of the State Council (DRC for short hereafter) also ushers in new development opportunities.

The Opinions on Strengthening the Construction of New Type of Think Tanks with Chinese Characteristics issued jointly by the General Office of the CPC Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council in Jan 2015 explicitly stated to support DRC and other institutes to first conduct the pilot work of building high-end think tanks. Facing the new requirements under the new circumstances for building think tanks, by taking opportunities, DRC focuses on perfecting the organizational forms and management methods, and takes reform and innovation as its driving forces. It makes vigorous efforts in carrying out the pilot work of building high-end think tanks. It further promotes the endeavor, and better serves the Party and the country so as to provide intelligence support to realize the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

I. The Linchpin of Building National High-End Think Tanks Lies in the Improvement of Decision-Making Service Capability

Serving directly the decision-making of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, national high-end think tanks provide important suggestions and assistance for our Party to explore the rules of governance and administration, plan governing strategies, and improve policy-making capability for major issues based on science. When advancing the mission of building national high-end think tanks, DRC should focus on China’s national conditions and embody Chinese characteristics. It should firmly adhere to the correct political direction and target at major strategic need of the country. It should follow the rules of policy-making and consultancy in China so as to provide constructive recommendations and advice for China’s economic and social development.

In the research work, DRC combines the research on major strategic issues in the mid- and long-term with the study of current hot topics and difficult issues. Addressing the need of the CPC Central Committee for decision-making, DRC works hard on following the truth and rules as well as looking forward into the future. With independent thinking, vigorous research, innovative spirit and integrity, DRC has actively conducted research on the overall, comprehensive, strategic and long-standing issues concerning major directions and measures in China’s economic reform, opening-up and modernization. It has achieved good research results.

There is increasing growth of research tasks entrusted by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. DRC has undertaken 69 research projects from the central government from 2011 to 2014, and 17 projects in 2015, including 10 major projects concerning the 13th Five-Year Plan.

DRC has undertaken many policy evaluation projects entrusted by the CPC Central Committee, the State Council as well as related ministries and commissions. Since 2014, DRC has undertaken 10 research projects of major reform issues given by the Leading Group of Comprehensively Deepening Reform of the CPC Central Committee, and 7 evaluation projects for special issues. It also has undertaken 10 projects of major policies and the third-party evaluation projects for major decision-making issues. Results from all these research projects provide the CPC Central Committee with basis for decision making.

DRC has increasingly improved its capability of doing policy research and supporting decision-making, and has achieved a range of research results of great value and influence. During the 12th Five-Year Plan period, DRC submitted an average of over 500 research reports to the central government each year. Based on solid research, these reports underscore the effectiveness and timeliness of solving practical problems. A great many of them have received great attention from the central government, which played an important role in providing consultancy service to decision-making on major issues when the state policies were formulated.

DRC has done accurate interpretation about the major policies and hot issues concerning economic and social development. It has published on hot research topics and responded to the public concerns. This year, DRC has conducted 7 special interpretation sessions on major issues like “the economic new normal”. These research papers have been published and forwarded in many domestic and overseas media. In the first 10 months, over 560 papers were published in mainstream media to interpret government policies.

DRC has given full play to its special role of representing the soft power of the country by building a high-level, wide-range and multi-channel system for international exchange and cooperation. It has made several accomplishments such as undertaking the task to establish the international development knowledge center, joining OECD Development Center on half of the Chinese government, sponsoring “Silk Road International Forum” twice successfully overseas, and initiating the set-up of “Silk Road Think Tank Network”. A total number of 14 new and ongoing major multi-lateral cooperation mechanisms at the state level have been established this year.

II. It is Imperative to Establish Flexible and Efficient Systems and Mechanisms

The pilot work of building national high-end think tanks creates opportunities as well as challenges. It requires that we should tackle the long-standing issues of systems and mechanisms in think tank development. We should explore a new model and path for both adapting to the need of scientific decision under the new circumstances and also being suitable for the work nature of think tanks.

Since 2011, DRC has set its objective of building into top class think tank. Vigorous efforts have been made in exploring the organizational forms and management methods for the new type Chinese-style think tanks, and experience has been accumulated for the pilot work. First, We have done a lot of work in innovating a new research management system by comprehensively promoting institutionalized, standardized and procedure-based management. We clearly define the responsibilities and strengthen the service function of administration for research personnel. We work hard in upgrading specialized and IT-based research management, and establishing the quick-response mechanism for the tasks entrusted by the CPC Central Committee and the central government. We make great efforts in promoting coordination in major research projects across departments and areas and highlighting professionalism. We also implement process oversight of research quality and determine the three-level responsibility system for quality review. Second, we have made great efforts in motivating our research staff. We implement competitive selection for important research positions and emphasize the importance of training our own research personnel as well as recruiting talents from outside. We improve the accreditation and evaluation mechanism for research performance, encouraging young researchers to participate in major research projects and publish their research results so as to provide more opportunities for them to become experienced researchers. By setting up the expert network and coordination mechanism, we have pooled effectively all sorts of think tanks, including international think tanks, to participate in consultancy and research of decision making.

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