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Du Runsheng on Policy Research


Zhao Shukai, Development Research Center of the State Council

In the history of New China's policy research, Du Runsheng (1913-2015) is an important figure well-known for his contributions. His achievements in policy research could be found in different periods of his lifetime. During the initial stage of rural reform in 1980s, he was responsible for drawing up five No.1 central documents; during the agricultural cooperation period in 1950s, he assisted Deng Zihui (1896-1972, he once worked as Vice Premier of the State Council- translator's note) with an attempt to rectify Mao Zedong's radical policy and was alas demoted; and in wartime and early days of the founding of New China, he was praised by Mao Zedong for his research findings on land reform policy. With regard to policy research, Du had both rich and vivid experience to share and profound and rational understanding to elaborate. By drawing on the author's own work experience at No.9 Courtyard, the study illustrates Du's pursuits, theories, and methods with respect to policy research, which bear an important value for current think-tank construction and policy research. 1. During the period when Du worked at No.9 Courtyard, he often emphasized the sense of historical mission and working attitude. He required that researchers should adopt three approaches relating to dedication, democracy, and science which were the benchmark for the assessment of their work. He set the demand on everyone and also on himself. 2. As regards think-tank construction, he held that a think-tank "should be built into a knowledge base rather than a warehouse". In giving working assignment, he often stressed, viewing things from the perspective of China's reform and development, as well as the distinctive feature and major role of think-tanks. 3. In view of investigation methods, he held that one should "have an objective attitude with a long-term perspective". In order to do research well, he often laid stress on two points: objective stand and long-term perspective. 4. Concerning research methods, he "preferred inductive method to deductive method". With respect to common problems in policy research, he specifically required people to avoid two types of mistakes. The first was to avoid holding one-sided point of view. He asked them to pay attention to both positive and negative opinions and not to be influenced by one-sided views. The second was to avoid having preconceived or invariable ideas. He held that the formation of a policy opinion and understanding of a problem was a process prone to lots of revision and that one should not be constrained by his first insight. 5. In respect to ideological attainment, he said that "he believed in no doctrine and even if I do, I have the doctrine of empiricism". In nature, Du's "believing in no doctrine" is a kind of doctrine. It is exactly because he did not believe in any "doctrine" that he rejected any rigid ideological thinking and instead had a tolerant and inclusive leadership style. This led to a working atmosphere that was lively and dynamic and everyone could speak his mind irrespective of superiority or inferiority.

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