Introduction to China Insight Foundation

China has an impact upon all our lives. A working relationship with China is essential if the problems common to humanity are to be addressed and a precondition of that is mutual understanding. It is to improve this understanding that China Insight Foundation has been set up.

As the first charitable, standalone, non-partisan think tank on China, China Insight Foundation (CIF) is dedicated to fostering an understanding of China and Chinese people for the benefit of the UK and British people.

With China’s economic resurgence, opinions in the West have become hostile as the perception of threat is increased. Denigration of China by commentators and leaders reinforces those in China who see the West as an enemy. As a result, West and East become ever more polarised.

In addition, there have been many actions undertaken by the Chinese Government in recent years with which we are uncomfortable. But at CIF we know that dialogue and commitment towards mutual understanding is essential for our benefit, possibly for the benefit of the planet and all its inhabitants, and we need to utilise all of the resources available to the UK’s soft power to achieve this.

Countries with different systems and philosophies must learn how to work together, to keep a just and sustainable peace, and to collaborate over existential challenges, such as climate change, weapons proliferation, disease prevention, food security, technology and governance. By bringing together global expertise in four key fields, China Insight Foundation brings reason and evidence, and fresh insight into discussions about China, in the service of policy makers and business leaders, journalists and educators, forging a deeper understanding of China that will shape international relations in the decades ahead.

The Need

In order to fully understand the extent of the disconnect between perceptions of China and to begin to explore possible solutions to this, our first step was to commission market analysis. We examined existing repositories of information about China today, including think tanks, and interviewed leading figures from politics, the private sector, academia and civil society. There were many reasons given for the need to create an independent, UK based think tank focused exclusively on China, of which the overarching reasons cited were:

  • Lay people have difficulty in interpreting and utilising much of the academic information;
  • Many organisations conduct research, but very few make actionable proposals for decision-makers;
  • Of the existing think tanks, most are either tied to academia or have China as just a minor section of their output;
  • The lack of knowledge of China throughout the UK is leading to serious misunderstandings.

The conclusion was that there is an urgent need for a specialist centre for in-depth understanding on China, where essential information on, and practical interpretations of, China’s politics, economy, governance and international relations can be accessed and trusted.

The solution

The China Insight Foundation will aggregate existing research, commission work to fill gaps, and will stay on top of all current issues in order to provide rapid analysis and advice. The Founders have four, broad overarching aims for CIF:

  • We will be a next generation think tank, initiating projects in areas in which cooperation between China and the UK is not controversial, such as humanitarian intervention, education, biodiversity and the oceanic environment. We will bring together professionals from both countries and create an environment of perpetual learning from each other.
  • CIF will draw upon a network of China specialists and institutions around the world to inform policymakers, decision-takers and opinion-formers on China: How it is governed, how it is developing economically, its health, education and welfare services, its advances in R&D, and its cultural and social transformation.
  • We will operate as a knowledge aggregator: CIF will source and appraise current information and expertise through the work of academics and organisations. This  will be analysed, abstracted and reproduced in forms usable by politicians, civil servants, journalists, business analysts and companies.
  • In the longer term, CIF will facilitate projects that tackle complex challenges that all countries face, by initiating and incubating approaches that seek to resolve these. For example, we will start by building relationships with specialists in the following fields: Humanitarian Intervention, Education, Biodiversity and the Oceanic environment. In support of this, we have initiated a small group focussed specifically on secondary education in the UK, to create the scholarly environment for the introduction of an A level in either Mandarin or Chinese Civilisation.

Join Us

Strong strategic partnerships – based on trust, mutual respect and understanding of cultural differences – must become our highest priority. For many individuals and organisations, the differences in policies, habits and culture between the West and China can be extremely difficult to bridge without expert advice. China Insight Foundation can provide that expertise will become an essential resource for anyone with an interest in understanding China. But don’t take our word for it:

The best way to deal with a new challenger is to understand the nature of the challenge, and work out a comprehensive, long term strategy.Kishore Mahbubani, recent Singapore Ambassador to the UN and author of Has China Won? (2020)

We’ve got one planet two systems now, we’re going to have to find forms of coexistence that allow us to address global issues, such as climate change, pandemic disease, antimicrobial resistance. We must find ways of having that conversation, the problems won’t go away.Sir Alex Younger, recent Head of the Secret Intelligence

We are entirely self-funded. To grow our expertise and our reach, including our planned events programme, we invite visionary philanthropists and organisations to join us as founding financial supporters, to enable us to develop to the point where we become financially self-sufficient.

All donors will receive regular progress reports, invitations to special events, and will be acknowledged and thanked as founding contributors. Please contact Sarah Slavin at slavin@china-insight.org.uk for more information.