Tuesday, October 4, 2022

More China Positions Needed at US Think Tanks to Help Prevent War?

In a blog post on Effective Altruism entitled "War Between the US and China: A case study for epistemic challenges around China-related catastrophic risk," Jordan Schneider and Pradyumna Prasad say that there should be more direct funding for early career China-related positions at think tanks in order to help prevent future war.

Here is more about what they have to say about the dearth of US-based China scholars:

There are maybe two dozen fellows at the most influential Mass Avenue think tanks, another two dozen at American staff colleges, perhaps 250 academics, and a few dozen other Americans employed in China-focused roles in the private sector. This number pales in comparison with other directly policy-relevant research fields like macroeconomics.

There are perhaps fifteen senior fellows and another two dozen research assistants in their 20s with at least passable Mandarin in the most influential Mass Avenue think tanks (Brookings, CSIS, CNAS, AEI, CAP…). Federally Funded Research and Development Organizations (FFRDCs) like RAND and the Institute for Defense Analyses perhaps employ fifty more, while American military universities employ perhaps another hundred China-focused researchers.

To ballpark the number of other global academics outside the PRC contributing to China-relevant research that feeds up into DC thinking, perhaps the total number is around 700. With an average salary of $100,000, that would add up to $70m spent per year on China-related studies. Keep in mind though that almost all of this spending is very poorly optimized for research that would feed into strategies to reduce catastrophic risk.


Among other things, they discuss why the Center for Security and Emerging Technologies (CSET) has some of the best China-related research around, and why philanthropists should try to emulate them as a "model framework to areas of particular neglected China-adjacent interest."

They also note that most recent "somewhat rigorous" projection of the economic impact of a US-China conflict was last published in 2016 by the RAND Corporation.