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China Policy Institute: Analysis

Managing NGOs in China

Written by Yongshun Cai.

The Chinese central and local governments are ambivalent to NGOs but not for the same reason. The central government recognizes the contributing role of NGOs in social governance, but it is also concerned with the potential political threat arising from any organizations independent of the state’s control. Local governments feel the direct need of NGOs in helping local governance, but they are worried about the political responsibilities tied to the management of NGOs. The central government addresses these concerns by regulating NGOs, whereas local governments tend to create and support NGOs that are more controllable.

Continue reading “Managing NGOs in China”

The Overseas NGO Law and its Effects on Chinese NGOs’ Contribution to Global Development

Written by Jennifer Y.J. Hsu and Reza Hasmath.

China’s Overseas NGO Law came into effect on 1 January 2017. At last count, 20 overseas NGOs received registration status in Beijing plus a handful in other major Chinese cities. Although it may be early to make assessments of the law on overseas NGOs operating in China and more directly on Chinese NGO sector, we seek to extrapolate further in this article by considering the effects of such political environment on the role of Chinese NGOs making a global impact. Given that the law has generated concern amongst practitioners and observers both within and outside of China where the law is seen as an indication of space tightening for civil society stakeholders, it leads us to ask the question: Can Chinese NGOs contribute to international development and global civil society given the tight political environment that governs NGOs in China? This is a particularly opportune time to examine such a question, as governments around the world from seemingly democratic countries, such as India, and new democracies, such as Hungary, to the increasingly autocratic Russia, are curtailing the space for civil society actors, including NGOs; and, with the US under Trump seeking to retreat to a more isolationist stance, there are questions as to whether China will step up to be the next global leader. The use of NGOs as a form of a nation’s soft power, conducting development projects and giving aid, to sway and influence others is one that is not new and is widely used by traditional donors like the US and UK. Using NGOs thus presents a possible strategy for the Chinese to increase its global influence. However, given the domestic environment we question whether the political constraints will permit Chinese NGOs, and thus China to step into the foreground as a leader in global development and advocate for the liberal values that are associated with global civil society. Continue reading “The Overseas NGO Law and its Effects on Chinese NGOs’ Contribution to Global Development”

China’s NGO Regulations and Uneven Civil Society Development

Written by Scott Wilson.

Since the People’s Republic of China’s Law on Administration of Activities of Overseas Nongovernmental Organizations on Mainland China (the Overseas NGO Law) went into effect on January 1, 2017, several news reports have detailed the law’s origins and the law’s effects on foreign organization’s presence and engagement with NGOs in China. The Overseas NGO Law has forced several foreign NGOs and foundations that previously operated in the gray area of China’s laws governing civil society to suspend operations and even consider withdrawal. I contend that the law is the latest in a series of actions to drive a wedge between foreign actors and Chinese civil society, rendering Chinese NGOs dependent on China’s state for funding. Chinese civil society includes relatively independent NGOs as well as government-organized NGOs (“GONGOs”), and China’s state is using laws such as the Overseas NGO Law to strengthen state-backed GONGOs and subordinate the actions of independent NGOs to serve the state’s interests. Here, I examine legal contentiousness of NGOs in two sectors of civil society: environmental protection and HIV/AIDS. Continue reading “China’s NGO Regulations and Uneven Civil Society Development”

Is China on a collision course with world football’s governing body?

Written by Simon Chadwick.

Trent Sainsbury may not realise it, but he recently became the epicentre of a seismic shift in global football governance. The Australian is a 25-year-old defender who had been playing for Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning. In January he signed for Italy’s Inter Milan on a short-term loan deal.

This looks like a relatively innocuous move – but it was not. Inter and Jiangsu are both owned by Suning, a Chinese electrical retailer (in Inter’s case the company purchased a 70% stake in the club last year). In other words, Suning own both the buying and the “selling” club. Continue reading “Is China on a collision course with world football’s governing body?”

Playing a Different Game: What the Chinese State Really Wants from the NGO Sector (and Vice Versa)

Written by Carolyn L. Hsu.

Is the government of the People’s Republic of China attempting to suppress civil society? This has certainly been the view of many Western journalists and activists, who decried the Overseas NGOs Law, which came into effect in January, 2017. The law requires international NGOs to register with the Ministry of Public Security and submit to other forms of supervision.  The international press described the law as a “crackdown” on civil society, a “tool to legalize human rights abuses,” and predicted that foreign NGOs would flee China. The US government expressed its concern that the law is too restrictive. In past several years, Chinese authorities have also harassed NGOs and arrested activists and lawyers. Some activists have called it “the worst clampdown [on civil society] since the period after government troops opened fire on protesters in 1989.” Continue reading “Playing a Different Game: What the Chinese State Really Wants from the NGO Sector (and Vice Versa)”

Building NGO Capacity and Autonomy in China

Written by Shui-Yan Tang.

A great challenge facing many Chinese reformers since the late Qing era has been to build a unified and strong nation that is also energized by a vibrant civil society.  Such efforts have been hampered to varying extents by a patriarchal tradition that is based on hierarchical and dependent relationships.  This tradition has continued to influence civil society and NGO development in contemporary China.

Liang Qichao reported his experience of visiting Chinatowns in North America in the early 1900s.  As a renowned reformer at the time, Liang was warmly welcomed by overseas Chinese in North America and stayed in several Chinese communities for months in 1902.  His observation was that civic organizations in Chinatowns in North America were either dominated by a handful of strong leaders or at the edge of chaos. Continue reading “Building NGO Capacity and Autonomy in China”

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