China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations

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China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations
CICIR logo.png
TypeGovernment-affiliated foreign policy think tank
Formerly called
China Institute of Contemporary International Relations

The China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR ; Chinese: 中国现代国际关系研究院; pinyin: Zhōngguó Xiàndài Guójì Guānxi Yánjiūyuàn) is among China’s largest, oldest and most influential civilian research institutes for international studies. Located in Beijing, the Institute is affiliated with China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS), and overseen by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China.[1][2]

CICIR has a staff of approximately 400, including 150 senior research fellows. It consists of 11 departments with different regional and functional concentrations, as well as two research divisions focusing on the Korean Peninsula and Central Asia, and eight research centers.[3] CICIR publishes the Contemporary International Relations (Xiandai Guoji Guanxi) journal.


The origins of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations can be traced back to the Communist Party’s intelligence operations during the Chinese civil war and Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Specifically, these early intelligence operations targeted the U.S. Dixie Mission and the Soviet presence in Communist Party bases in Yan’an during the 1940s.[1]

In 1964, then-Premier Zhou Enlai ordered the creation of several colleges and university departments to focus on international affairs.[1] A number of ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Public Security, established their own think tanks and research organizations under the decree.[4] CICIR was established in 1965.[5] At that time, it fell under the Foreign Affairs Leading Group of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, and served a number of senior Communist Party officials.[1] CICIR was the only international relations institute or university in China that did not close during the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution.

In 1980, amidst Deng Xiaoping’s reforms and openings to the outside world, CICIR was designated an “open” institution, and was authorized to engage with foreigners as a means of enhancing intelligence collection.[1] It began publishing the journal Xiandai Guoji Guanxi (Contemporary International Relations) in 1981. The journal became quarterly in 1986, and has been published monthly since 1993.[4]

Institutional and personnel ties[edit]

CICIR is affiliated primarily with the Ministry of State Security, though domestic Chinese media rarely acknowledge this fact.[6]

In 1983, CICIR was placed under the bureaucratic management of the newly created Ministry of State Security (MSS). In 1999, it was again placed under the Communist Party’s Central Committee, maintaining strong organizational ties to the MSS and Foreign Affairs Leading Group. In 2009 an article in the Party journal Liaowang, published by Xinhua, called CICR "subordinate" to the MSS. Hong Kong media have disputed its precise institutional position—whether it is actually the intelligence research arm of the MSS—or whether it merely provides "intelligence research and analysis" for the agency.[6]

Given, however, that the Foreign Affairs Leading Group is its principal customer, and it is largely funded by the MSS, it can be called a "Soviet-style intelligence organ." [6]

In 2003, CICIR changed its name from the China Institute of International Relations to the China Institutes of International Relations.[3]

A number of cases have been reported of CICIR researchers traveling abroad to collect intelligence for reporting back to the MSS. Geng Huichang, the Minister of State Security from 2007 to 2016, served as the president of CICIR from 1990-1993. According to David Shambaugh, CICIR's leadership "all share lengthy and shadowy careers in the intelligence services."[6]

Focus, functions, influence[edit]

While CICIR's research spans the range of international affairs, its major focus is the U.S. and U.S.-China relations.[6]

Its activities include: providing reports to government departments, publishing research in academic journals, carrying out projects on commission from the PRC government, conducting joint research projects with domestic and foreign institutions, promoting academic exchanges, offering Master's and PhD programs.[6]

CICIR is identified by Stratfor Global Intelligence as belonging to the 8th Bureau of the Ministry of State Security, China's main intelligence agency, and provides intelligence reports to the Politburo Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China[7] The organization itself does not speak much about its relationship with the Chinese government, however, and Chinese media reports rarely acknowledge the institution's ties with the regime.[6]

The institute has held considerable influence over China's foreign policy decision-making process due in part to its close organizational proximity to the Communist Party's Central Committee, the Foreign Affairs Leading Group, the Foreign Affairs Office, and the MSS. The institute's relevance to the foreign policy process is further bolstered by its large research staff and ability to produce timely intelligence analysis.[1] This influence has been in decline since the mid-1990s, however, coinciding with the death or retirement of some of its senior researchers, and the growing influence of the Foreign Ministry in foreign policy decision-making.[1]

Institutes and divisions[edit]

CICIR comprises eleven distinct research institutes, each with its own regional or functional focus:

  • Institute of Russian Studies
  • Institute of American Studies
  • Institute of Latin-American Studies
  • Institute of European Studies
  • Institute of Japanese Studies
  • Institute of South and Southeast Asian Studies
  • Institute of West Asian and African Studies
  • Institute of Information and Social Development Studies
  • Institute of Security and Arms Control Studies
  • Institute of World Political Studies
  • Institute of World Economic Studies

The organization has two research divisions under the direct control of CICIR leaders:

  • Division for Korean Peninsula Studies
  • Division for Central Asian Studies

CICIR is also home to eight research centers:

  • Center for Hong Kong and Macao-related Studies
  • Center for Ethnic and Religious Studies
  • Center for Globalization Studies
  • Center for Taiwan-related Studies
  • Center for Counter-Terrorism Studies
  • Center for Crisis Management Studies
  • Center for Economic Security Studies
  • Center for Marine Strategy Studies

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g David Shambaugh, “China’s International Relations Think Tanks: Evolving Structure and Process,” The China Quarterly, Vol 171 (Sept 2002) pp 575-596.
  2. ^ Michael D. Swaine, "The role of the Chinese military in national security policymaking," National Defense Research Institute.
  3. ^ a b China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations Archived July 10, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, accessed 5 July 2011.
  4. ^ a b Gerald Chan, “International Studies in China: An Annotated Bibliography,” (New York: Nova Science Publishers, 1998).
  5. ^ Xuanli Liao, “Chinese Foreign Policy Think Tanks and China’s Policy Towards Japan,” (Hong Kong: The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2006).
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Open Source Center, "Profile of MSS-Affiliated PRC Foreign Policy Think Tank CICIR", 25 August 2011
  7. ^ Stratfor Global Intelligence Ministry of State Security organization chart[permanent dead link]