Mainland universities will be given state funding to help extend the overseas reach of Chinese academic research, the latest initiative in the nation's soft-power push abroad. The funding will come via the 'Go Abroad' initiative, which aims to give greater overseas exposure to Chinese research, particularly in the social studies. The Ministry of Education would contribute money to the initiative, which would include translation and publication of Chinese academic works and the creation of international think tanks, said Zhang Donggang, the deputy head of a ministry department overseeing teaching and research in social science. The effort is part of a joint blueprint for the next decade issued by the ministries of education and finance. 'These initiatives will allow China a greater say in international academic circles and will greatly expand the influence of Chinese academic research overseas in the next 10 years,' a campaign statement said. The effort is also the latest by the central government to boost its so-called soft power, to match its rising economic status. Since 2008, the government has spent billions of yuan to develop a global media network to polish the country's image overseas. Top policymakers have also made the development of the cultural industry - an umbrella term for theatre, publishing, film and television - a top priority to serve this purpose. More than 350 Confucius Institutes have been established in 105 countries since 2004. National funding for social sciences has risen from 270 million yuan (HK$330 million) in 2006 to 800 million yuan this year. Professor Qiao Mu, who specialises in international relations at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said the country certainly had a lot of money to splash on revamping its image. And exchanges with top overseas academics would no doubt improve the sorry state of Chinese social science research, which he said lacked originality. But the question remained of how productive such spending would be, since Chinese research in social sciences was almost solely built on the foundations of Marxism and Socialism, something that would likely be a major stumbling block in reaching out to academics in the West. Qiao said that another challenge in attracting overseas academics would be the government's handling of academics with dissenting views on some popular topics, such as the perceived threat of a rising China and the universal issues of democracy and justice. 'To circumvent these barriers, will the government simply go after academics perceived as being friendly towards China and who simply say what the Chinese government wants to hear?' the professor said.