Understanding the Development of Think Tanks in Asia

Prof. Dr. Patrick Köllner
2015 - 2018
GIGA Research Platform Asia/India
Tsinghua University
Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) Beijing office, FES Yangon office

Prof. Dr. Xufeng Zhu, Tsinghua University, China

Dr. Jane Hayward, London School of Economics (LSE), United Kingdom

Dr. Sebastian Maslow, University of Tokyo, Japan

Prof. Xufeng Zhu, Tsinghua University, China



Research Questions:

  • Which factors drive the development of think tank sectors in various parts of Asia?
  • More specifically, how does political context affect the traits and trajectories of think tanks in different parts of Asia?
  • What kind of roles do (foreign policy) think tanks play in Asia?

Contribution to International Research:

Most research on think tanks (TTs) has focused on their development, roles, and policy impact in North America, specifically the US. Yet, TTs exist nowadays in every world region and have experienced particular strong growth in East Asia. Understanding TTs as a global phenomenon with different local manifestations, the project seeks to overcome the (conceptual and empirical) US bias in TT research and explores the trajectories and traits of TT sectors in East Asia and India. A particular sectoral focus is put on the development and evolving roles of foreign policy TTs in various parts of the region.

Research Design and Methods:

Combination of case studies and comparative analysis employing process and ideas tracing.

Preliminary Results:

Our research shows how particular political contexts have shaped the development of TT sectors in China, Taiwan, and Japan and how such development has been affected by context factors operating at different interactive levels: at the level of (i) inter- and transnational dynamics; (ii) governmental systems and their openness to policy advice and other think-tank services; and (iii) individual political leaders engaging with TTs.