Thursday, June 18, 2020

New Piece Sheds Light on Taiwan's Funding of US Think Tanks

Eli Clifton has a new piece on Taiwan's funding of US think tanks entitled "Taiwan Funding of Think Tanks: Omnipresent and Rarely Disclosed."  It was co-published by The American Prospect and Responsible Statecraft, a publication of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

Here are some excerpts:

Pushing back on bellicose statements from both parties requires credible policy advice from experts, many of whom are based at Washington research institutes. But five of the capital’s most prominent think tanks have been producing policy papers urging closer U.S. ties with Taiwan — a territory locked in an uncertain legal status that threatens to be a flashpoint between Beijing and Washington. These seemingly impartial research institutions are pushing for expanded arms sales and trade agreements with Taiwan without widely disclosing their high-level funding from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), Taiwan’s equivalent to an embassy.
The five think tanks — the Brookings Institution, the Center for American Progress, the Center for a New American Security, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Hudson Institute — all disclose their funding from TECRO but bury it deep on their websites or annual reports.
None of their researchers disclose the potential conflict of interest between Taiwanese funding and advocating for more security guarantees for and trade with Taiwan.

Some think tanks have already pushed back at the piece, as if often the case with investigative reporting on foreign funding of think tanks.

The author, Eli Clifton, said that the first thing the spokesperson for the Center for American Progress (CAP) told him when asked about CAP's Taiwan funding was "I'd like to know if you plan to note in the story that you are a former CAP staffer who left ThinkProgress, since that is a clear conflict of interest."

At the end of the piece, Clinton notes that he and Ben Armbruster, the managing editor of Responsible Statecraft, are former employees of CAP.

Bonnie Glaser, a Senior Adviser for Asia and Director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), had a back-and-forth with Clifton on Twitter, with Glaser saying that all reports her program has published that were funded by Taiwan have included a statement on funding sources.  Clifton notes, however, that other pieces CSIS has published have not disclosed Taiwan funding.

Clifton has written other pieces about think tank funding in the past, including this 2013 piece about Taiwan's funding of American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about Taiwanese think tanks setting up shop in Washington, DC.

Update: In response to the piece, China's foreign minister said that US think tank should be fair and objective.