BY ELIZABETH CHEN
Policy writing is both an art and a science, and it can be intimidating if you don’t have prior experience. But if you keep a couple of basic principles in mind, it can be relatively straightforward to craft a persuasive and ideally impactful piece.
I edit the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief, which seeks to publish substantive, timely, and fact-based strategic analysis about economic, political, and security issues related to China and the country’s foreign relations.
At China Brief, I look for analytical writers who can bring new issues and fresh perspectives to policymakers, scholars, and members of the business and intelligence communities.
For those of you who are interested in becoming a China policy writer, here are five things to keep in mind when you’re crafting your analysis:
- Have a purpose – There should be an overarching narrative you are trying to address, and likely also a specific reason for why you’re writing. Make sure you keep whatever it is in mind and don’t fall too far down any tangents, no matter how interesting they may be.
- Have a clear flow – This is related to the first point: the reader needs to be able to easily follow your argument, so make sure you double check that everything makes sense and your line of thinking proceeds clearly before submitting.
- Understand the context – Policy writing needs to be short and sweet, but it’s often most effectively presented when both you and the audience know what the stakes are. Answer the “so what?” question as concisely yet comprehensively as possible before moving on to analysis and recommendations.
- Show, don’t tell – Do the research, cite your sources, and seek to ground your ideas in fact-based analysis. There is a time and a place for opinion writing, but it should not be here. Relatedly, avoid sensationalism, which can be a common pitfall for China-related writing in particular, either because of language barriers or other reasons.
- Know your audience – Be familiar with the readers that you are writing for as well as the organization you are seeking to publish with. This knowledge will help to frame your argument, and likely speed up the publication process as well.
A typical China Brief article runs between 1,500-2,000 words, and we pay an honorarium for all articles that we publish. Our team is always looking for new contributors to pitch ideas on key strategic issues, and we privilege our ability to provide a platform for emerging analysts. Here are some of our standout pieces:
What the 2020 Chinese Census Tells Us About Progress in Hukou Reform
Ramping the Strait: Quick and Dirty Solutions to Boost Amphibious Lift
The CCP’s Shifting Priorities: An Analysis of Politburo Group Study Sessions
Please feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] if you’d like to learn more, and especially if you have a great idea that you’d like to write about!
– Elizabeth, editor at China Brief
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elizabeth Chen is the editor for the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief. Previously, she worked for a number of organizations in the U.S.-China policy space, to include the U.S.-China Strong Foundation, the East West Institute, and the Greenpoint Group. She holds a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University in International Studies and History, and has also lived and worked in mainland China for several years.