Book and Presentations

Please note that a book, NGO Governance and Management in China, based on revised and updated papers stemming from the Forum is now available. Click here for more information
The reviews of the book are as follows:

“Grounded in deep engagement as well as expert knowledge of contemporary China, this outstanding collection deftly explains how and why NGOs have multiplied and evolved within the space created and mediated by the state. Of particular value is the book’s success in unpacking the complex political dynamics through which some organizations thrive and others struggle.” - Professor Deborah Davis, Yale University


“This book on governing and managing NGOs in China is a useful contribution to current studies of NGOs in China. Particularly valuable are the diverse empirical case-studies of specific types of state-NGO interaction, which lend texture and depth to the analysis. This will be an important read for students of China.”

- Professor Jude Howell, London School of Economics and Political Science


“In spite of hostility on the part of the Chinese government, NGOs, domestic and international, have become part of the landscape in China, engaging in a wide range of activities, sometimes supporting and supplementing the state, and other times challenging it. The well-researched and compelling case studies in this book help us understand the richness and complexity of life in the associational private spaces in China that are too often overlooked.” - Professor Thomas B. Gold, University of California, Berkeley


“This book reveals the diversity and complexity of the relationship between contemporary Chinese NGOs and the government, and looks into the future of civil society in China. For those who want to understand the China’s state-society relationship, this book is a must read.” - Professor Guosheng Deng, Tsinghua University


“The governance and management of NGOs in China is an important and rapidly-evolving field. In this up-to-date, carefully-researched and theoretically innovative collection, the editors are to be congratulated in bringing together a wide-ranging set of scholarly contributions that reframe the field. This book will be indispensable to scholars and practitioners in the years to come.” - Professor David Lewis, London School of Economics and Political Science


Bingzhong Gao, Peking University 
Is Chinese Society a Kind of Civil Society? The Emergence of an Independent Third Sector in China  

[Slides]               [Presentation]
Abstract: Since the 1990’s, Chinese (liberal) intellectuals have begun to compose the vision of civil society as the future of the development of Chinese society. Is China a kind of civil society? My answer is Yes. In fact, the pursuit of civil society was a part of the building of “modern society” from the revolution of 1911. Though the progress was broken by the socialist revolution in 1950’s, the giving up of class struggle around 1980 resumed the progress.

     The framework of three-sector social theory is very helpful for us to judge if China is a civil society. If we can agree to include grass-rooted and traditional associations such as lineages and temple fair organizations in the third sector, pay more attention to co-operations among different organizations, and notice the third sector can be represented by independent individuals, the third sector has been emerging and can be identifiable as a whole, visible in media and especially in new media, and experienced in daily life of Chinese people.

Reza Hasmath, University of Oxford
What Explains a Lack of State-NGO Collaboration? A Neo-Institutional Perspective
[Slides]               [Presentation]
Abstract: This paper suggests that a lack of meaningful collaboration between the state and NGOs in China is not necessarily a result of a state that is seeking to restrict the development of the sector, or a fear of a potential opposing actor to the state. Instead, interviews with NGOs in Beijing and Shanghai suggest that a lack of meaningful collaboration between the state and NGOs can be partially attributed to isomorphic pressures within state-NGO relations, and insufficient epistemic awareness of NGO activities and their utility on the part of the state. In fact, the evidence suggests that once epistemic awareness is achieved by the state, they will have a stronger desire to work with NGOs – with the caveat that the state will seek to utilize the material power of NGOs rather than their symbolic, interpretive or geographical capital.

Jianyu He, Tsinghua University
Diversity, Contradictions and Dilemma of  Chinese NGO Regulations
[Slides]               [Presentation]
Abstract: Mainland China is experiencing a striking upsurge of non-governmental associational activities in the past thirty years, especially since the mid-1990s. However, it is hard to introduce a simple approach, such as civil society or corporatism, to justify the nature of the emerging sector, because of the high diversity and contradictions among these new so-called NGOs. Based on comprehensive data of NGOs in China, this paper summarizes the diversity and contradictions into four dimensions: independent/dependent, non-profit/for-profit, formal/informal, and modern/traditional. 
     Each of these dimensions has had and will have great impacts on the engagement of the civic associations in the public policy making and governance in China. It is increasingly difficult for the government to regulate this diverse sector through a uniform policy framework. Thus, scholars have proposed the theory of “graduated control” to explain the transformation of the regulation system of associations, and to describe the changing nature of state-society relations in China. Although the ideal-type of “graduated control” theory can potentially overcome the deficits of the dichotomy methodology, it still oversimplifies this sector by focusing only on the political and public service dimensions. This paper will try to add an administrative dimension to reveal how these contradictions influence the regulations of NGOs in Mainland China.

Christopher Heurlin, Bowdoin College
(Dis)Trusting NGOs in China
[Slides]               [Presentation]
Abstract: Citizens in China generally have a great deal of trust for political institutions. Yet the broader Chinese public is much more skeptical of NGOs. Chinese NGOs suffer from relatively low levels of public trust in two senses. First, Chinese trust NGOs much less than they do government institutions. Second, compared to other East Asian states, Chinese trust their NGOs much less than do other East Asians. Drawing upon two waves of surveys of popular attitudes towards NGOs, this paper will examine the determinants of trust in NGOs. The paper analyzes a number of factors that influence trust in NGOs, including social capital, political trust, political ties, socioeconomic status, media exposure and contact with NGOs.

Timothy Hildebrandt, London School of Economics and Political Science
From NGO to Enterprise: The Political Economy of Activist Adaptation in China     
[Slides]               [Presentation]
Abstract: Scholarly attention has been increasingly paid to the emergence of Chinese NGOs. And while we have a better understanding of how these organizations rose within an otherwise closed political environment, we know considerably less about the rapidly changing nature of NGO development and, therefore, the potential future of these organizations, especially in a ‘post-success’ environment. How will Chinese NGOs confront a future where the state is better able to deal with social problems, and thus no longer needs their assistance in social service delivery? In addition, how can Chinese NGOs survive where they lack domestic sources of funding and foreign donors are retreating? To deal with these constraints, many Chinese NGOs have adopted new models of funding that resemble more social enterprise than NGO. However, we lack theoretical understanding of this shift: on one hand, there are very few compelling theories to understand changes within NGO orientation, especially when an NGO becomes something decidedly different; on the other hand, scholars of social entrepreneurship have yet to present compelling explanations for why an organization becomes a social enterprise from a different form. As such, in this paper I posit a political economy explanation for this activist adaptation in China, showing how the limited economic resources and the closed political environment compels NGOs to operate more as business if they wish to continue their work unabated. In doing so, I also present conceptual frameworks for understanding future of NGOs far outside China, not just in closed polities, but more open ones as well.

Carolyn L. Hsu, Colgate University

China Youth Development Foundation: GONGO (Government-Organized NGO) or GENGO (Government-Exploiting NGO)
Abstract: The China Youth Development Foundation (CYDF) is one of China's largest and most famous charitable organizations, known primarily for its Project Hope campaign to raise money for rural schools and schoolchildren. In scholarly literature, CYDF is most often characterized as a GONGO, a government-organized NGO. Based on interviews with CYDF’s founder, leader, employees, volunteers, and beneficiaries, this paper offers an in-depth analysis of CYDF’s relationship with the state in order to provide one case study of a Chinese GONGO. According to my findings, the label GONGO may be inaccurate and misleading. Although CYDF has had a very close and entangling relationship with the Chinese party state since its inception in 1989, it was neither founded nor organized by the government.
    Instead, CYDF and the Chinese party-state have a mutually beneficial relationship which manifests itself differently at different levels. At the national level, CYDF’s central headquarters works hard to maintain good relationships with important actors in the central government. At the county level, however, CYDF treats local party-state offices as subcontractors, outsourcing out much of its work to low level bureaucrats. At the ground level, the school administrators, teachers, and families that benefit from the Project Hope assume that CYDF is a part of the government, a belief that both benefits and constrains the organization.
    The GONGO label implies that the state holds the power and its relationship over the NGO. My research indicates that NGOs in China may actually manipulate and exploit the state.

Jennifer Y.J. Hsu, University of Alberta
Layers and Spaces of the Chinese State: Interactions Between State and NGOs
[Slides]               [Presentation]
Abstract: The Chinese state, in the twenty-first century, is an increasingly heterogeneous entity comprised of multiple layers and spaces. This diversity is, in part, attributable to the rise of non-governmental organizations operating in China. This paper examines how state and NGOs transform each other. I argue that we need to problematize and thus reconceptualize the Chinese “state” to include a spatial dimension. I demonstrate this through a case study of migrant NGOs in Beijing and Shanghai where these NGOs are making strong efforts to engage with central and local authorities. This is a significant turn of events. I contend that the local state is becoming more crucial in the work and activities of NGOs. It is the growing presence of the local state that constructs the notion of the state as a spatial entity and thus, layered. In an era where NGOs are proliferating in the nation, the Chinese state is engaging with society as a means to remain relevant and legitimate. Through this process of engagement, the state is penetrating different spaces to ensure its survival. Space here should be construed in both the geographical sense – Beijing and Shanghai in the case of this paper – and also as a social process, that is, NGOs and their work represent a domain in which different layers of the state are engaging with but have also permeated. This paper will assess the strategies adopted by both state and NGOs in their engagement with each other to assess the success of their attempts to shape their institutional environment. The adoption of a multi-level analysis of the Chinese state unveils varying degrees of coercion and co-optation at play when it comes to understanding state-NGO relations in China. 
Nicholas Pope, Canada Fund in China

Shawn Shieh, China Development Brief
Mapping the Dynamics of Civil Society in China: A Modal Analysis of Trends in the NGO Sector
Abstract: This talk revisits a framework for analyzing state-NGO relations that appeared in State and Society Responses to Social Welfare Needs in China (Routledge, 2009). I argued that the dominant frameworks used to analyze state-NGO relations in China – corporatism and civil society – did not provide a comprehensive understanding of the diversity of state-civil society interactions in China. I proposed instead examining state-NGO interactions through three modes of state-society interaction: regulation, negotiation and societalization. Regulation describes a top-down formal process initiated by the state to manage social actors and initiatives. Negotiation describes consensual, and generally more informal, interactions initiated by either the state or the social actor. Societalization is a process initiated by the social actor to create space and autonomy through initiatives in which the state is not a partner. These modes cover a wide range of state-society interactions, but are analytically distinct. Each mode corresponds to different theoretical models of state-society relations, different roles and interests for state and social actors, and different unintended consequences that help us account for future changes in the state-society relationship. Using this modal analysis, I argued that over the last decade (1997-2007), regulation was not very effective, and that negotiation and societalization had become the dominant modes. There were, in other words, few signs of a “state-led civil society”. In this talk, I examine changes in state-NGO interactions since 2007, arguing that the last few years have been marked by greater attention to strengthening regulation and other efforts to bring NGOs from the margins into the mainstream. As a result of these changes, we have seen a greater range of negotiation taking place, and the narrowing of options for societalization, giving rise to concerns among NGOs about losing their independent status as the state plays a more assertive role in guiding civil society.

Karla W. Simon, Catholic University of America
Meaningful Changes in the Legal Environment for Civil Society Organizations: Their Relationship to Larger Trends in China's "New" Governance

Abstract: The March 2013 National People’s Congress meetings included an announcement of huge significance for the legal environment for NPOs in China. As part of a far-reaching plan to reorganize and streamline government, the highest level of the Party-state announced that the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) is to work with the State Council to implement new regulations for the registration of NPOs. The general outline of the implementation of the policy is as follows: (1) Two different types of organizations are to be permitted to directly register and engage in market competition; these are trade associations and chambers of commerce. (2) Other types of organizations will also be permitted to directly register: those engaged in training activities, commerce and technical activities, charitable activities, and public benefit activities, and those involved in the provision of urban and rural services; they do not require any other inspection or authorizations. (3) “Political, legal, and religious” organizations do not come within the new regime. The former two are said to be “problematic,” while religious organizations have their own registration regime entirely. (4) The entire system of registration and management is to be clarified and modernized. This paper analyzes the new policy, what led up to it, and the ways in which it reflects developments over the past several years that are discussed in the author’s new book Civil Society in China: The Legal Framework from Ancient Times to the ‘New Reform Era’ (Oxford University Press, 2013).

Jessica Teets, Middlebury College and Marta Jagusztyn, Independent Consultant
The Evolution of a Collaborative Governance Model: Public-Nonprofit Partnerships in China
[Slides]               [Presentation]
Abstract: Since the early 2000s, the central government has encouraged local governments to begin contracting out the provision of social services, such as education and health services, to both for and non-profit organizations to meet increasing demands for social services and to modernize the Chinese bureaucracy. As non-profits are uniquely situated in communities, contracting with non-profit organizations might improve public policies if mechanisms are created to allow these organizations’ experiences and social innovation to feed back into the policy process. The two cases examined in this paper, HIV service contracting in Yunnan and migrant education contracting in Shanghai, illustrate that current policy solutions result in greater service provision but not the capture and feedback of information into public policy. In response to these findings, we recommend creation of legal/financial infrastructure that will encourage social innovation by non-profits and contracting policy solutions that mandate policy feedback mechanisms.