This paper examines and assesses the role of research institutions and think tanks in linking up governance evidence with policy making in China. Most researchers and practitioners would agree that better participation by civil society in policy making, better transparency of policy making rules and processes, better accountability of policy makers for their decisions, and a due emphasis on fairness and efficiency, in short better governance, would improve the quality of policy making in particular and development performance in general.
In these respects, research institutes and think tanks could play a crucial role not only in generating the knowledge and evidence needed to inform policy making in a scientific sense, but also in informing and lending weight to particular policy positions, which we expect ultimately to improve policy making. Most social, economic and political policies are unlikely to be made by disinterested players with only the public good in mind, who only need to be better informed by science so to speak. More often than not, policies are the outcome of a political game involving players each seeking, to a greater or lesser degree, to defend their own self-interest. Whether independent or non-independent, research institutes and think tanks could play the role of better informing these policy positions, scientifically, albeit often in a partisan manner. One would expect the outcome of policy making through such a process to be of better quality than without going through such a process.