A veteran economist has been appointed president of China’s top think-tank, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), amid an ongoing reshuffle of senior officials.
Xie Fuzhan, who has extensive experience in government think tanks, will return to Beijing from central Henan province, where he had spent five years first as governor and then as party boss, state media reported on Thursday.
In the lead-up to the parliamentary gathering, the 64-year-old had been tipped as one of the main contenders to take over as governor of the central bank, but lost out to Yi Gang, the former deputy governor.
Xie will be the first economist to head the CASS in over three decades.
The last economist to take the role, Ma Hong, took over in 1982, not long after late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping set the country on course for economic modernisation with his “reform and opening up” policy. Ma was one of the leading advocates for China's market-oriented reforms at the time.
Before Xie, the academy had been mostly led by Communist Party theorists or veteran politicians. Its outgoing president Wang Weiguang famously raised eyebrows in 2014 when he thundered in an op-ed that “class struggle can never be extinguished in China”.
In 2015, as part of the quest to boost its soft power, China rolled out a plan to develop “a new type of think tank with Chinese characteristics” adding that it intended to have “several wielding major global influence” by 2020.
The article wrongly notes that CASS is the top ranked Chinese think tank in the University of Pennsylvania's annual think tank rankings, saying that CASS fell from the 17th best international think tank in 2012 to the 39th best in 2017.
Actually, CASS is currently ranked as the 23rd best non-US think tank, and the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) is ranked higher (9th best in the world). In the category of best US and non-US think tanks, each of those is ranked lower, but CICIR is still ahead.