Overarching Theme: 2005-2008

PDF Version of the Entire Document

Document for 2006-2007 has been updated.

Policy areas to investigate:

  1. Poverty alleviation
  2. Environment and Energy
  3. Technology and Media
  4. Reform of state-owned enterprises

We encourage participants to bring the trajectories of gender and ethnic minorities into our discussion of each of the designated policy areas.


To build a knowledge interface between those various disciplines in the Humanities, the Social Sciences, and professional schools from the shared angle of our mutual interest in developing an innovative policy studies not confined within the positivist frame of quantitative analysis.

To build up a knowledge interface between scholars and policy makers and analysts from the PRC. Through structured discussions, we hope to influence the perception of both groups (policy makers and scholars) on three sets of larger issues: (i) governance; (ii) China’s role in trans-boundary Asian development policies, and (iii) China’s possible contributions to international policy regimes.

To explore new critical paradigms in Chinese Studies through our exploration of the interface between policies studies and the studies of Chinese history, culture, society, politics, and economy. Critical policy studies defined in our scope has thus far been a missing link in Chinese studies.

This is a multi-year & a multi-layered project in terms of its organization, mission statements, and research agendas.

Overarching theme for 2005-2008 : "Western Problem Consciousness and Chinese Problems”

Organizing principle: Each annual theme will serve as the conceptual frame within which discussions of specific policy issues will take place. Frame issues need to crosscut with policy issues. We will keep exploring the same policy areas for the next three years although conceptual frames will change year by year.

In addition, each year, there will be a separate panel devoted to the hottest policy debate of the year. For 2005, the forecast says "the fiscal crisis of local governments."

Rationale for "Western Problem Consciousness and Chinese Problems"

  1. What are the problems?

    Since policy is about problem solving, identifying the right problems (wenti) needs to precede our search for the means of solving them.

  2. Are "Western" instruments and Western problem consciousness the answer?

    There is currently a debate waged in Chinese policy circles and among Chinese academic scholars about the universal value and applicability of Western paradigms to developing countries.  One of our collective strength lies in our interest and expertise in questioning foundational categories and paradigmatic thinking. This overarching theme will enable us to pull ourselves right into the heart of the ongoing debate between Chinese policy makers, intellectuals, and policy analysts.

  3. What is "western" and what is "Chinese"?

    The wenti yishi approach invites us to explore the constructed nature of both "Western" and "Chinese" problem consciousness. Is what is propagated as "western" by China's liberal policy makers the "west" as we understand it from the West? Are the "Chinese problems and categories" advocated by China's New Left "culturally specific"? By addressing the problem of Occidentalism and Chinese exceptionalism, we can push the critical trajectory of this project to the fullest.

  4. Should the history of policy culture matter to contemporary policy makers?

    This inquiry into the constructedness of problem categories will lead us to emphasize the historical evolution of policy culture and major policy categories in China and the West (US and Western Europe). The theme of "Chinese Problem Consciousness" contains within itself the HISTORY question about policy culture and policy categories. Thus, the axis of gu vs. jin is as important as the axis of zhong vs. xi.

  5. How do we solve problems?

    All the above inquiries are raised with the purpose of problem solution. The discussion of policy options for each designated policy area is our primary goal.