The evolution of Chinese public diplomacy and the rise of think tanks


The evolution and change of Chinese public diplomacy can be seen from panda diplomacy, the Confucius Institutes, Chinese mass media’s “going out” strategy as well as various international events such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. Some substantial studies have found that these Chinese public diplomacies could not help much in terms of improving China’s image or enhancing Western understanding of China. This article aims at examining the latest Chinese policy instrument—think tanks—to see if they can boost Chinese soft power. In addition, this article illustrates the Chinese think tanks from an institutional perspective by studying their contribution in the One Belt One Road (OBOR) Initiative through the case studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China (RDCY). The Chinese think tanks have played an important role in targeting foreign publics and working on track II diplomacy. However, there is still room for improvement. The major sources of this article are derived from published materials, websites of Chinese institutions and interviews.

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    Zhao argues that Chinese discursive power can be classified as “right to speak,” “power discourse,” “power of the media,” “soft power” and “diplomatic skills.” From Zhao’s analysis, the Chinese government understands its discursive power as “setting facts straight, innovating rules, and making breakthroughs in social practice.”

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    See the website of Pí shū shùjùkù,, accessed 11 August 2017.

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    See the website of Pí shū shùjùkù,, accessed 11 August 2017.

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    See the website of Pí shū shùjùkù,, accessed 11 August 2017.


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The authors would like to express their appreciation to the Global China Research Programme of the Chinese University of Hong Kong for sponsoring a field trip to Beijing.

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Correspondence to Hak Yin Li.

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Li, H.Y., Wong, S. The evolution of Chinese public diplomacy and the rise of think tanks. Place Brand Public Dipl 14, 36–46 (2018).

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  • Chinese public diplomacy
  • Soft power
  • Think tanks
  • Tack II diplomacy