In this podcast interview, Cheng Li discusses the growing importance of Chinese think tanks and the prospects for China’s efforts to promote new types of such institutions with National Committee President Stephen Orlins.
A call to action by President Xi Jinping has led to significant resources being devoted to the development and expansion of China’s think tanks. While some critics have derided them as “tanks without thinkers,” China’s think tanks play a growing part in the crafting of domestic and foreign policies. In addition, their connections to party leadership make them an invaluable window through which foreign scholars and officials can observe both the Chinese intellectual discourse and policymaking process. In a pioneering new study, The Power of Ideas: The Rising Influence of Thinkers and Think Tanks in China, Dr. Cheng Li of the Brookings Institution examines the complicated relationship between the Chinese government and think tanks and the prospects for China’s efforts to promote new types of think tanks. On September 6, 2017, Dr. Li joined the National Committee for a discussion of his book.
Cheng Li is director and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center. Dr. Li is also a director of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, a member of the Academic Advisory Team of the Congressional U.S.-China Working Group, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of the Committee of 100. He is the author/editor of numerous books, including Rediscovering China: Dynamics and Dilemmas of Reform (1997), China’s Leaders: The New Generation (2001), Bridging Minds Across the Pacific: The Sino-US Educational Exchange (2005), China’s Changing Political Landscape: Prospects for Democracy (2008), China’s Emerging Middle Class: Beyond Economic Transformation (2010), The Road to Zhongnanhai: High-Level Leadership Groups on the Eve of the 18th Party Congress (2012, in Chinese), China’s Political Development: Chinese and American Perspectives (2014), Chinese Politics in the Xi Jinping Era: Reassessing Collective Leadership (2016) and The Power of Ideas: The Rising Influence of Thinkers and Think Tanks in China (2017). He is the principal editor of the Thornton Center Chinese Thinkers Series published by the Brookings Institution Press. Dr. Li has advised a wide range of U.S. government, education, research, business and not-for-profit organizations on work in China, and is frequently called upon to share his perspectives and insights as an expert on China. He recently appeared on BBC, CCTV, CNN, C-SPAN, ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, NPR Diane Rehm Show, and the PBS Charlie Rose Show. Dr. Li grew up in Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution. In 1985, he came to the United States where he later received an M.A. in Asian studies from the University of California and a Ph.D. in political science from Princeton University.