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China's think tanks, despite number, seen lacking in quality

Jan. 23, 2014 at 12:50 AM   |   Comments

BEIJING, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- China has the world's second-largest number of think tanks after the United States, but experts question their quality.

A report by the think tank and civil societies program at the University of Pennsylvania said China had 426 think tanks as of August of last year, compared to the United States' 1,828, but only six of the Chinese institutions ranked among the top 100 worldwide. The rankings were determined by the think tanks' academic successes and global influence.

The country's top rated Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing got only the 20th rating on the world list, which was topped by the Washington-based Brookings Institution. The top 10 positions were taken by U.S. and European institutions.

"China's think tanks are still at a growth stage, and there isn't a sound mechanism for their participation in the making of public policy," Quan Heng, a researcher with the Think-tank Research Center at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told China Daily.

He said about 40 percent of the active think tanks in China have strong backing either from the government or the military, which to some extent adversely affects the institutions' independence and representation of public interests.

He said private think tanks, on the other hand, are handicapped by issues such as fundraising and information-sharing.

China Daily said China's new President Xi Jinping has stressed the importance of building modern think tanks to bring them to the same level as national strategy.

"This is the best opportunity for the development of think tanks in China," said Yang Jiemian at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies. "Who would have foreseen the boom of Chinese companies on the Fortune Global 500 list, when only 30 years ago, there were no Chinese names on the list? I'm sure that someday, we'll see global-leading Chinese think tanks," Yang said.

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