The expansion of Chinese influence in the Pacific has aroused growing attention from academics and policymakers. Although China has established six main Pacific research centres, there has been little investigation into what motivates this increasing interest. Building on the author's recent interviews with 39 Chinese mainstream scholars on the subject of Pacific Studies, this paper aims to fill this gap by providing an in-depth analysis of Pacific Studies in China, especially how centres are structured and what motivated their establishment. It is argued that the initiation, structure and scholarly focus of academic research on the Pacific in China has been largely driven by government policies, but also that government interest has fluctuated under President Xi Jinping. Government policy dependence is a double-edged sword that both promotes and hinders Pacific scholarship.