Column: Growing without influencing?

Jan 26 2014, 23:52 IST
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SummaryOnly six Chinese think-tanks, of the 436 in the country, figure among the top 100 think-tanks of the world

If the number of think-tanks is an indicator of a country’s strategic weight and influence, then China has surely come of age. After the US, China now has the largest number of think-tanks in the world, 426 by the latest count, as reported in the ‘2013 Global Go To Think Tank’ of the University of Pennsylvania. It beats the rest of the G8—UK, Germany, France, Canada, Japan, Russia and Italy—in the number of think-tanks it has. Think-tanks are valuable in contributing to public policy-making through varied analytical insights. They are important in disseminating knowledge on policies and major external and domestic developments to a wide range of stakeholders including policy practitioners, business, media and academia. They are considered major constituents of strategic knowledge communities of countries and are often critical in shaping national positions on major issues. A large number of think-tanks in a country reflect the presence of a wide variety of experts, analysts and scholars engaged in public policy discourses.

In a globalised world, the impacts of think-tanks are not confined to local or national issues. Their views are sought and debated on matters of global and regional significance. Analysis by prominent Western think-tanks such as the Brookings Institution, Chatham House, Bruegel, Rand Corporation, Peterson Institute, Amnesty International, Transparency International, etc, on various policy issues are followed extensively across the world.

The growth of think-tanks in China is commensurate with the country's size and strategic weight. But have these acquired the ability to influence global debates the way Western think-tanks do?

Only six Chinese think-tanks out of the 436 in the country figure among the top 100 think-tanks of the world. Only one among these—the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)—is within the top-20 and, is ranked at 20. The China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) and the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), ranked at 36 and 44, are the two others among the top-50.

On a regional ranking scale, however, Chinese think-tanks perform much better. China, India, Japan and Korea have the largest numbers of think-tanks in Asia. On a comparative ranking across these four countries, seven Chinese think-tanks figure among the top-20. Thus while globally, views and insights of Chinese think-tanks are yet to acquire a traction corresponding to their large size, regionally, they are obviously followed more closely.

China is relatively new to the think-tank game compared with the West. While it has

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