With the rapid pace of globalisation, the internationalisation of think tanks (ITT) has been a growing concern. ITT can manifest in a myriad of ways, such as employing foreign staff, setting up overseas branches and forging cooperation with other countries’ think tanks. Despite the research community’s awareness of the development, there is no systematic analysis of ITT in the current literature. This article develops a “personnel-centred model” to investigate the internationalisation behaviours of think tanks. This conceptual framework attempts to explain the difficulties faced by China’s think tanks in the process of internationalisation. The authors also propose several possible solutions to assist Chinese think tanks resolve the difficulties.