Internationally, on October 6, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a scientific intergovernmental body first established in 1988, elected Hoesung Lee of the Republic of Korea as its new Chair. Six candidates had been nominated for the position and after a run-off with contender Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, Hoesung Lee was elected by 78 votes to 56. The election took place in Dubrovnik, Croatia where the 42nd session of IPCC will also be held.
Since its creation, the IPCC has annually has been in charge of five major assessments of the science of climate change, including mitigation and adaptation strategies to cope with global warming. Thousands of researchers, mostly experts in the natural sciences and economics, are assigned to compile a comprehensive report.
In North Korea, there are reports that there will be a rocket or satellite launch on October 10, the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Worker’s Party of Korea. There are fears that it might not be a rocket nor a satellite launch but a nuclear bomb test. Currently, North Korea has accumulated enough nuclear material to construct approximately nine bombs and predictions suggest that the country will possess eighty nuclear warheads by 2020.
In China, there is a continuing trend to create and promote the growth of think tanks. This is in response to the government’s announcement to build fifty to a hundred “high-end” think tanks with “Chinese characteristics”. Think tanks with “Chinese characteristics” have to follow guidelines set by the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the State Council. These think tanks should stick to Marxist ideology and follow the CPC’s leadership. In September there were at least ten new think tanks newly launched in China. These think tanks are spurred not only from universities but also from government agencies such as the China National Tourism Administration or media groups such as the Phoenix media group.
The rapid growth in the number of think tanks reflects President Xi Jinping’s apprehension that China lacks internationally renowned think tanks. While Chinese think tanks are struggling to gain international reputation, they are also unable to meet the growing demands of policy makers in China. According to a study published in Contemporary International Relations, the forecasts made by Chinese scholars made on war goals, processes, and post-war rebuilding involving U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq were largely erroneous.
Different to government think tanks, university think tanks are less influenced by the Chinese authorities. However, as most Chinese universities themselves are run by the state, they do not have freedom in signing contracts or hiring research personnel.
Due to the state-dominated atmosphere, the think tanks in China do not have strong merits to promote policy ideas to the public. Commentaries by political leaders on think tank reports are more often used as a measure for think tank performance than the actual achievements by the think tanks.
So far, there have been no serious measures to fix the innate institutional problems that are restraining China’s think tanks from operating independently. In the Chinese world of academia, Marxism-Leninism has again started to be upheld, also influencing Chinese universities. Political correctness has started to become the primary concern in academic research.
Nevertheless, China does not lack in think tank scholars with expertise and international recognition. The successful economic reform has been due to China’s think tanks. As experts point out, China’s main problem is reforming its structural system instead of worrying about the financial funding issues on think tanks. Time has come for China to stop reforming without any actual “reforms”.