Foreign Experts’ Advices:from Understanding to Execution

2012-04-25 本文来自: 《国际人才交流》杂志 作者:John Lawson Thornton 分享 |

How does the Chinese government might attract more foreign expert talent  to  China  and  how,  more generally,  the  Government  might deepen, extend, and refine its use of foreign experts to further help China move forward in the 21st Century?

On these topics I have three observations and three recommendations to make:


(1)  The Chinese Government has systematically identified, attracted, and utilized foreign experts from all over the world and in virtually every field of endeavor. I know of no other government anywhere in the world that comes close to the depth, rigor, and openness with which the Chinese Government affirmatively seeks and cultivates the best talent, ideas and thinking from around the world and from where ever and whoever it comes. Therefore, any observations and comments one makes are in the spirit of making an exceptional system marginally better.

(2)My experience as a foreign expert/advisor to educational institutions, think tanks, government ministries and SOEs as well as numerous Chinese businesses is that Chinese institutions and indeed the Chinese system have become increasingly open, effective and comfortable engaging foreign experts in deep, textured and rich interchange. This trend is essential for progress and effectiveness and should be encouraged to continue.

(3) The efficacy of using the advice of foreign experts is not a question, among Chinese institutions, of conceptual understanding or agreement with the advice, but rather is an issue of execution. This arises for one of two reasons. The most useful advice is not what to do, but how to do it. This is much more difficult and requires a level of understanding of the Chinese system and or history that most westerners do not have. Therefore, their advice is often inappropriate or incapable of being implemented. This is usually unfortunate and not the ideal outcome. The second reason that good advice is not taken is because those receiving the advice are not in a position to act. They need the permission or support of others in the system, and those others, for a variety of good and bad reasons, choose not to act.


(1) In so far as China needs the best ideas and needs, in particular, those ideas that can be scaled to make a meaningful difference to many people, there must be a way to ensure that the State Council sees and hears the most compelling ideas presented systematically by foreign experts directly. The Government should consider creating a Foreign Experts Advisory Council which is small in number and which reviews annually all the best ideas and puts the most meritorious ones in priority order in a report given directly to the State Council to consider implementing each year. This recommendation envisions a working body which collects, analyses and shapes recommendations all year and meets as a working group four times a year and meets with the State Council two times a year. This sounds burdensome. It is not. It is the most efficient way to allow the State Council to act on sound, creative ideas of scale routinely. This is vital to China’s continued forward progress.

(2) In view of observation 3 above, the Government should devise a plan for educating foreign experts on how advice actually goes from words to action inside the system.  Providing context will lead to more discerning, helpful advice. I understand that this will not be easy because it is counter-cultural, and it is not an easy task in the best of circumstances.  Also, the Government needs to create a method for ensuing that foreign expert advice reaches the eyes and ears of those who can make the decisions to put into effect the advice. There must be some kind of systemic protocol to do this, otherwise it is unlikely to happen. Bureaucracies do not encourage unconventional thinking or behavior. Therefore, there must be mechanisms devised for doing so, for providing incentives and sanctions to encourage behavior.

(3) Finally, a central substantive point: As China becomes increasingly important and central to the welfare of many other countries and international bodies , it will be highly desirable for China to become  more able to communicate its domestic policies and priorities to the external world and, in many cases, to coordinate them with those of certain external parties.  This is an area or a dimension to China’s future in which foreign experts can be especially helpful and valuable. The appropriate experts could simultaneously help Chinese officials understand more fully the norms, practices and views of others and at the same time act as both advisers and, in appropriate circumstances, even conduits to assist others in understanding China’s thinking for certain of its policies and actions and provide needed context to both. This would be most useful as China continues to evolve its role in the world in this century.

(Extract of John Lawson Thornton’s speech when meeting Premier Wen Jiabao at the Great Hall of the People on January 12th, 2012)



Mr. John Lawson Thornton is giving speech when meeting Premier Wen Jiabao at the Great Hall of the People



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