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China calls for top-notched peace research institutes

15:41, April 29, 2011

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By Li Hongmei

If war and peace is a duel eternal theme throughout the human history, the recent years has witnessed war-dominant international scenario. Hence, it is highly advisable for China to build up the globally notable "peace research institutes" or "peace and development research institutes," which will act as the most authoritative think tank assisting the government in its domestic and foreign policies decision by offering information, documents and wisdom.

As a matter of fact, U.S. and European countries have moved far ahead of China in this regard. The independent "peace institutes" have actually turned out to be the indispensable think tank for Heads of States when they hammer out foreign policies. Just to name a few.

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. Established in 1966, SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open source, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public.

The Foreign Policy Think Tank Index ranked SIPRI as the No.3 non-U.S. think tank in the world in 2009.

The United States Institute of Peace is also an independent, nonpartisan federal institution created by US Congress to promote the prevention, management, and peaceful resolution of international conflicts.

Established in 1984, the Institute meets its congressional mandate through an array of programs, including research grants, fellowships, professional training, education programs from high school through graduate school, conferences and workshops, library services, and publications.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highly touted the value and historic significance of the Institute on the occasion of its 25th anniversary of founding in 2009.

The Institute for Development and Peace (INEF) is the only German research institute working on questions at the intersection of peace and development and combines basic with applied research and public policy consulting.

It closely collaborates with the Development and Peace Foundation (SEF), Bonn, established in 1986 at the initiative of former German chancellor and Nobel peace prize winner Willy Brandt. They both serve as the top-notched German think tanks, having played an irreplaceable role in Europe's integrated regional cooperation and the peaceful reunification of the two Germanys.

Back to the situation of China, even if China boasts some research organizations with peace and development as subjects of study, they are almost unknown to the international community; and even in China, they are not thought so highly of as they expect by the government as well as by the general public.

But it is high time China got around to the issue. The virtual end of the Cold War and the emergence of a cluster of rising powers signal that the world is bidding farewell to an old era and the old international system. Though the contours of the changing system remain somewhat blurred, a new round of changes is undoubtedly close at hand.

China's position in this new era of systemic change and the best strategic choices for the country are being hotly debated. China's rise represents a significant driving force behind the systemic change. At the time, China needs to keep abreast of the times in international relations. Since globalization binds China together with the fate of the world, China must be more sensitive to the changes in the international system and respond with a sense of urgency to the on-going transformations.

Just for one thing, how to convince others that China's rise is a constructive and peaceful force, rather than a threat, is a long-term subject worth not only study but publicity. And domestically, China's conceptions and policies also need interpreting and promoting through the efforts of "peace research institutes".

In the past, changes in the international system were relatively easy to identify, marked by watershed events such as the two World Wars. However, against the backdrop of an era of peaceful development, signs of transition are more blurred and changes in the system are becoming more qualitative than quantitative.

To satisfy the need of China's image building endeavors on the world stage and, to inform all who are keen to understand China and who have little knowledge of China and China's development strategy of what China is, China needs a reservoir of talents, who are adept at discerning the first signs of the wind rising and can make a timely response. The Western great powers have long been skillful in doing this.

A Chinese saying goes "Ducks are the first to feel the arrival of spring from the warming-up of the river water". People who are sensitive to developments in current affairs and brave enough to attempt reforms can usually predict a coming storm from the preceding silence.

At the critical juncture of a vigorous economic growth and a visible rise in national strength, China needs the top-notched think tank.

The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.

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About this column

Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of PD Online.


Li HongLi Hong

After 19 years working for China Daily and its website, Li Hong moved to english.people.com.cn in March 2009.

Li has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.

He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.

Dai MinJohn
Dai Min

John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."