Chinese government issues new policy on think tanks

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A new policy that bears on the future of Chinese think tanks, the “ Opinions on Promoting Healthy Development of Social Thinks Tanks”, was released this week by nine governmental departments, including the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the Central Propaganda Department, the Organization Department, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the State Press and Publication Administration of Radio and Television and the National Bureau of Statistics. The new document lays out plans for implementation of several policies regarding social think tanks, including classified registration, dual management, comprehensive supervision and parallel tracks of support and regulation.

The new policy emphasizes that the main purpose of social think thanks is to serve government and party policy-making, while their principal objective is contributing research and consultation on public policies. In addition, the policy points out that social think tanks must operate in accordance with national laws and administrative regulations, meanwhile strengthening their personal political and social responsibility. Aside from this, the policy holds that social think tanks must continue to adhere to party ethics and principles, follow the developmental path of new think tanks with Chinese characteristics, keep social responsibility at the forefront of their conduct and protect national and public interests.

It provides for a dual management system on social think tanks that involves both the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the respective professional supervisory units of the think tanks. Among these, provincial-level social science associations will act as the chief professional supervisory units for private social science research institutions, who will need to register at the provincial-level Civil Affairs Departments. The professional supervisory units for other social think tanks will be assumed by authorities relevant to activities conducted by these think tanks, who will also need to register with the Civil Affairs Department at the same level. Social think tanks that have not registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs cannot continue operations under the name of social think tank.

The policy requires the implementation of reporting systems for large-scale projects and important activities in addition to requiring social think tanks to only accept legally sourced foreign donations. Under the new policy, think tanks are required to report all large-scale publications, forums, meetings and activities to their professional supervisory units. In accordance with guidelines laid out in the policy, the Ministry of Civil Affairs and professional supervisory units are to monitor social think tanks for illegal activities while social think tanks are to set up public information platforms where information such as their organizational framework, person in charge, financial situation, funding sources, information on collaborations and overseas activities are publicly accessible.

Finally, the policy stresses the importance of ensuring that social think tanks produce products and services in accordance with the laws, expanding funding sources for think tanks, and increasing channels for think tanks to engage in policy consultation services and foreign exchange.