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Richmans' Trade and Taxes Blog
The Sell-Out by American 'Thinkers'
John B. Judis has an excellent follow-up in The New Republic to the New York Times' analysis of the role of foreign money in shaping the 'research' of Washington think tanks, the NYT investigation I discussed in my blog post yesterday.
Judis connects the dots on foreign influence concerning U.S. trade policy by China and Japan.
during this time of bitter trade disputes between the United States and Japan, Toyota endowed a chair of Japan studies at CSIS (widely dubbed “the Toyota chair”). CSIS consulted with Toyota on whom to appoint to it.
The New York Times reports how CSIS received $1.1. million from the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), an arm of the government, to promote “research and consulting” at a time when Japan was trying to get the U.S. Congress to back the Trans-Pacific Partnership. CSIS made a JETRO official a visiting scholar, and one of its scholar testified on Capitol Hill about how critical the trade agreement was to “the entire Asia rebalancing strategy.” CSIS officials denied a quid pro quo, but a Japanese diplomat told the Times that the country expected favorable treatment for its money.
And also mentions specific instances from China:
The New York Times might have also investigated another foreign contribution to CSIS. This May, CSIS, which I’ve heard from other people at thinktanks to be desperately seeking funding,announced that its posh new building would house the Zbigniew Institute on Geostrategy. The institute, which may simply be a fundraising gimmick, was seeded by a large grant from Wenliang Wang, who runs Rilin Enterprises, which is headquartered in Dandong, China.
Rilin Enterprises is the largest private construction firm in China and also controls the largest port near the North Korean border. Wang has been an advisor to municipal administrations and is on Forbes list of the China’s most wealthy individuals. Says Mann, “Anyone in construction is dependent on state banks for loans. Dandong, the closest city to North Korea, is more heavily connected to the government and the People’s Liberation Army than most other cities. It is safe to conclude the guy has extensive government connections.” Is it likely, given this bequest, that this institute will air hostile views toward China?
...if, due to foreign contributions, one side is more prominently represented than the other, then Americans’ ability to make an informed decision is undermined. That’s not merely a hypothetical, but has happened repeatedly over the last decades—over, for instance, whether to fund an American HDTV industry, or over whether to grant most favored nation trading status to China.
Judis notes that the role of foreign (and domestic) interests in shaping research published by think tanks is nothing new, but also a growing issue. It marks, he argues, a departure from an older ideal that saw think tanks as a source of unbiased expertise. The entire essay is worth a read.
Unfortunately, the essay has little answer concerning what to do about the sell-out by American 'scholars' in the think tanks. My idea to strengthen internal sources of Congressional expertise (the committee staff) is one potential approach. Another is to actively prosecute those think tanks that have crossed the line to illegal unregistered covert advocacy for foreign governments.
Journal of Economic Literature:
Atlantic Economic Journal: