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China sets up 'super think tank'
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Speaking at the CCIEE founding ceremony, Zeng Peiyan said the think tank would "focus on the major and pressing issues concerning the world economy; conduct strategic, macroscopic, forward looking research, and work hard to achieve pertinent, applicable conclusions."

CCIEE's first batch of research projects cover the possibility of a second wave of the financial crisis, the construction of new world financial order, the strategic cooperation between China and the US, the strategic relationship between China and Japan, cooperation between China and Russia on energy and resource development in central Asia, the decision-making systems of foreign governments, and the role of think tanks in formulating government economic policy.

Increasing complexity challenging decision makers

According to Zeng Peiyan, an increasingly complex world is "posing a challenge to all think tanks."

The past decade has been a difficult period for decision makers. Both officials and business leaders have found themselves at a loss in the face of an ever more unstable economic situation and frequent changes in government policy.

Furthermore, inaccurate forecasts have made economists and researchers a standing joke in the country.

At the end of 2007, a renowned economist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences predicted inflation would remain stable and not go above 4 percent. Two months later the CPI rocketed to 8.7 percent and by the end of 2008 had plunged to 1.2 percent.

"In addition to their weak academic background, domination by special interest groups also leads Chinese think tanks into errors and misjudgments," said Jiang Yong.

In a special study on "departmental interests", Jiang found that some ministry-sponsored think tanks were essentially working to promote special interests. Researchers tend to bend their academic opinions to comply with the institution's general principles, and sometimes modify their opinions for fear of being criticized by their boss.

Powerful companies are also increasingly sponsoring think tanks. One Beijing think tank was set up with money from coal mine owners in Shanxi Province. Researchers at the think tank were tasked with "tactically expressing opinions that are in the best interests of coal mine owners."

According to Jiang Yong, such practices result in "absolute obedience to sponsors' orders". In his view, think tanks set up on this basis are essentially acting as representatives of special interests groups and failing in their responsibility to offer independent, objective, scientific advice to the government.

"As society changes think tanks will have to reform," said Liu Kegu, former vice governor of China Development Bank and now a CCIEE researcher.

According to Liu, the future trend will be towards high-level, comprehensive think tanks with both government and non-government sponsorship.

The establishment of CCIEE is being widely viewed as step in this direction. "Research on complex economic phenomena like the financial crisis requires interdepartmental, trans-regional, interdisciplinary efforts," said Liu Kegu. CCIEE is composed of researchers from government departments, NGOs, large enterprises, chambers of commerce, banks and other financial institutions, colleges and universities.

Another notable remarkable feature of CCIEE is its reliance on both governmental and non-governmental sources of funding.

After visiting the Brookings Institution, the Rand Corporation and other renowned foreign think tanks, Liu Kegu came to the conclusion that the Chinese advisory system was in pressing need of institutions with both governmental and non-governmental support.

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