AGENTS OF INFLUENCE:
ASSESSING THE ROLE OF CHINESE FOREIGN
POLICY RESEARCH ORGANIZATIONS
AFTER THE 16TH PARTY CONGRESS
Evan S. Medeiros
China's foreign policy has emerged in recent years as a fast moving axis of transformation. Although numerous international scholars have already chronicled the reform-era evolution in Chinese foreign policy and foreign relations, the pace of change has been particularly rapid in recent years. China has become much more engaged in the activities of regional and multilateral organizations, including shaping their agendas in limited ways. Chinese policymakers pay attention to a more diverse set of international issues. Moreover, China's senior leaders have begun to look at the world through a set of lenses which are far less tinted and jaded with the vestiges of history and ideology than in past years. 1 China's classic insecurity, overconfidence, entitlement mentality, and pedantic moralism no longer dominate Chinese interactions with the international community. These changes beg the question: where are these new and “correct” foreign policy ideas coming from? 2
Chinese think tanks and research institutes serve as a central source for the collection and formulation of information, analysis, and intelligence on foreign policy issues. Their influence has grown in the last 10-15 years as foreign affairs decisionmaking has pluralized, demand for regional and functional expertise has grown, and access to information has increased. Thus, Chinese foreign policy think tanks are one important window through which to understand more clearly the changes in Chinese perceptions and policies on current foreign policy challenges. Examining these organizations sheds light on the genesis and evolution of the newest and most novel Chinese thinking on foreign affairs.