This is from an article in today's China Daily:
...The institute is just one of 31 research units at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS). For 35 years, the academy has been studying both theoretical and practical topics. Some of its leading figures have been elected as representatives for the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
At least 20 leaders from research institutions in Beijing will attend the congress. Among them, the most prominent scholars are Li Wei, president of the Development Research Center of the State Council, Li Jingtian, deputy president of the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC, and Li Jianhua, deputy president of the Chinese Academy of Governance.
These institutions, plus CASS, work primarily as think tanks for the central government and the Central Committee of the CPC. They said the increasing involvement of researchers indicates that the CPC is now drawing on a wider range of sources and opinions as part of the decision-making process.
Directly administered by the State Council, CASS was founded in May 1977, when 2,200 researchers at 14 institutes specializing in philosophy and social sciences moved to the new organization from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In the following four years, a further 16 research and publishing institutes were established, including the Institute of Population and Labor Economics.
More than 3,200 employees research topics such as economics, finance and international politics, and the results of that research are passed on to the government.
CASS sends its researchers around the country to investigate specific topics. In 2010, the academy conducted 102 surveys into social conditions nationwide. From January to October 2011, it submitted 211 reports to the central government based on the results of 621 surveys...
Other think tanks work in a similar way, but their focus is more diverse. The Chinese Academy of Governance, one of the country's most prestigious training schools, has specialized in policy consultation since its foundation in 1994.
Every year, CAG trains a huge number of high-ranking officials. In 2011, it trained more than 7,700. In the first half of this year, the number was roughly 7,000, according to Zhang, and the total is expected to rise to more than 15,000 by year-end.
In 2008 the Brookings Institution, arguably the most "powerful" think tank in the world, held an event titled "Think Tanks in China: Growing Influence and Political Limitations." A transcript of can be found at the link provided.
Here is a March 2012 report from Indiana University's Research Center for Chinese Politics and Business, written by UPenn think tank expert Dr. James McGann. It is titled "Chinese Think Tanks, Policy Advice and Global Governance."