Global Civil Society Under the New INGO Regulatory Law: A Comparative Case Study on Two INGOs in China

Abstract

This paper tries to explain why similar International Nongovernmental Organizations (INGOs) have different scopes under the new regulatory law in China. While previous studies have often associated fragmented authoritarianism with more room for civil sectors, the unintended consequence has been largely ignored. The paper argues that while civil sectors benefit from decentralized bureaucratic politics, the conflict between bureaucracies may also become an obstacle. This argument is based on a comparative case study of two similar INGOs whose missions are to solve poverty issues. While World Vision International had difficulties becoming a national organization after establishing several provincial offices with the help of local authorities, Oxfam succeeded and received permission from CPAFFC because it terminated collaboration with other local authorities, which put CPAFFC at ease. The interviews illustrate that competition among different departments and concerns about political risk lead to different outcomes for civil society. Government agencies will doubt an INGO’s willingness to commit to a new relationship if it has too many partners. This implication reveals the complex effects of fragmented bureaucracy on INGOs. The decentralized political structure may lead to different outcomes for INGOs. It is necessary for INGOs to understand the political logic of the new INGO law so that they can choose the proper strategy to maximize their benefits.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    See details at http://www.ngocn.net/column/2017-02-14-28726dce820834f6.html.

  2. 2.

    See details at http://www.ftchinese.com/story/001067343.

  3. 3.

    Interview, employee of WVI.

  4. 4.

    Interview, employee of WVI.

  5. 5.

    Interview, manager of WVI.

  6. 6.

    According to the official statistics as of the end of 2017, CPAFFC has become 13 INGOs’ national supervising agent, ranking first among all government agencies.

  7. 7.

    Interview, manager of WVI.

  8. 8.

    Interview, employee of WVI.

  9. 9.

    Interview, related expert.

  10. 10.

    Interview, related expert.

  11. 11.

    Please see the report at http://www.chinadevelopmentbrief.cn/articles/registering-and-working-in-china-an-interview-with-albert-yu-world-vision/.

  12. 12.

    Interview, related expert.

  13. 13.

    Interview, manager of Oxfam.

  14. 14.

    Interview, staff of Oxfam.

  15. 15.

    Interview, staff of Oxfam.

  16. 16.

    Interview, related expert.

  17. 17.

    Interview, government officials in Civil Affairs.

  18. 18.

    Interview, related experts.

  19. 19.

    Interview, manager of Oxfam.

References

  1. Berman, S. (1997). Civil society and the collapse of the Weimar Republic. World Politics, 49(3), 401–429.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Boudreau, V. (2009). Resisting dictatorship: Repression and protest in Southeast Asia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Brødsgaard, K. E. (Ed.). (2016). Chinese politics as fragmented authoritarianism: Earthquakes, energy and environment. New York: Taylor & Francis.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Brown, L. D., & Hu, X. (2012). Building local support for Chinese civil society with international resources. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 23(3), 711–733.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Burt, R. S. (2009). Structural holes: The social structure of competition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Chen, F. (2009). Union power in China source, operation, and constraints. Modern China, 35(6), 662–689.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Chen, J. (2016). World civic politics in china: Assessing international NGOs’ influence. China: An International Journal, 14(4), 95–117.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Chua, L. J., & Hildebrandt, T. (2014). From health crisis to rights advocacy? HIV/AIDS and gay activism in China and Singapore. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 25(6), 1583–1605.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Coleman, J. S. (2000). Social capital in the creation of human capital. In E. L. Lesser (Ed.), Knowledge and social capital (pp. 17–41). Routledge.

  10. Deng, G. (2010). The hidden rules governing China’s unregistered NGOs: Management and consequences. China Review, 10(1), 183–206.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Eng, T. Y., Liu, C. Y. G., & Sekhon, Y. K. (2012). The role of relationally embedded network ties in resource acquisition of British nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 41(6), 1092–1115.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Foster, K. W. (2002). Embedded within state agencies: Business associations in Yantai. The China Journal, 47, 41–65.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Fu, D. (2017a). Disguised collective action in China. Comparative Political Studies, 50(4), 499–527.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Fu, D. (2017b). Fragmented control: Governing contentious labor organizations in China. Governance, 30(3), 445–462.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Gerring, J. (2008). Case selection for case-study analysis: Qualitative and quantitative techniques. In J. M. Box-Steffensmeier, H. E. Brady & D. Collier (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of political methodology (pp. 646–684). Oxford University Press.

  16. Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360–1380.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Gunter, M. M., Jr., & Rosen, A. C. (2011). Two-level games of international environmental NGOs in China. William & Mary Policy Review, 3, 270.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Hassid, J. (2008). Controlling the Chinese media: An uncertain business. Asian Survey, 48(3), 414–430.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Hildebrandt, T. (2012). Development and division: The effect of transnational linkages and local politics on LGBT activism in China. Journal of Contemporary China, 21(77), 845–862.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Hsu, C., & Teets, J. (2016). Is China’s new overseas NGO management law sounding the death knell for civil society? Maybe not. Asia Pacific Journal, 14(4), 1–14.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Hsu, C. L., & Jiang, Y. (2015). An institutional approach to Chinese NGOs: State alliance versus state avoidance resource strategies. The China Quarterly, 221, 100–122.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Hsu, J. Y., Hsu, C. L., & Hasmath, R. (2017). NGO strategies in an authoritarian context, and their implications for citizenship: The case of the People’s Republic of China. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 28(3), 1157–1179.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Johnston, H. (2012). State violence and oppositional protest in high-capacity authoritarian regimes. International Journal of Conflict and Violence (IJCV), 6(1), 55–74.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Kang, X., & Heng, H. (2008). Graduated controls: The state-society relationship in contemporary China. Modern China, 34(1), 36–55.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Kaufman, J. (2012). The global women’s movement and Chinese women’s rights. Journal of Contemporary China, 21(76), 585–602.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Keyser, C. H. (2009). The role of the state and NGOs in caring for at-risk children. State and Society Responses to Social Welfare Needs in China: Serving the People, 41, 45.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Landry, P. F. (2008). Decentralized authoritarianism in China (Vol. 6, p. 31). New York: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Lema, A., & Ruby, K. (2007). Between fragmented authoritarianism and policy coordination: Creating a Chinese market for wind energy. Energy Policy, 35(7), 3879–3890.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Li, Y. (2013). Fragmented authoritarianism and protest channels: a case study of resistance to privatizing a hospital. Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, 42(2), 195–224.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Lieberthal, K., & Oksenberg, M. (1990). Policy making in China: Leaders, structures, and processes. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Lieberthal, K., & Lampton, D. M. (1992). Bureaucracy, politics, and decision making in post-Mao China. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Ma, Q. (2002). Defining Chinese nongovernmental organizations. Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 13(2), 113–130.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Markham, W. T., Johnson, M. A., & Bonjean, C. M. (1999). Nonprofit decision making and resource allocation: The importance of membership preferences, community needs, and interorganizational ties. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 28(2), 152–184.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Marks, D. (2010). China’s climate change policy process: improved but still weak and fragmented. Journal of Contemporary China, 19(67), 971–986.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Mertha, A. (2009). “Fragmented authoritarianism 2.0”: Political pluralization in the Chinese policy process. The China Quarterly, 200, 995–1012.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Nickum, J. (2010). Water policy reform in China’s fragmented hydraulic state: Focus on self-funded/managed irrigation and drainage districts. Water Alternatives, 3(3), 537.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Noakes, S., & Teets, J. (2018). Learning under authoritarianism: Strategic adaptations within international foundations and NGOs in China. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 1, 1–21.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Przeworski, A. (1995). Sustainable democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Putnam, R. D., Leonardi, R., & Nanetti, R. Y. (1994). Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Qian, J., & Mok, K. H. (2016). Dual decentralization and fragmented authoritarianism in governance: Crowding out among social programmes in China. Public Administration and Development, 36(3), 185–197.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Riker, J. V. (1995). Contending perspectives for interpreting government—NGO relations in South and Southeast Asia: Constraints, challenges and the search for common ground in rural development. In N. Heyzer, J. V. Riker & A. B. Quizon (Eds.), Government-NGO relations in Asia (pp. 15–55). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Shieh, S. (2018). The Chinese State and overseas NGOs: From regulatory ambiguity to the overseas NGO law. Nonprofit Policy Forum., 9(1), 1–10.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Shieh, S., & Deng, G. (2011). An emerging civil society: The impact of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake on grass-roots associations in China. The China Journal, 65, 181–194.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Spires, A. J. (2011a). Organizational homophily in international grantmaking: US-based foundations and their grantees in China. Journal of Civil Society, 7(3), 305–331.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Spires, A. J. (2011b). Contingent symbiosis and civil society in an authoritarian state: Understanding the survival of China’s grassroots NGOs. American Journal of Sociology, 117(1), 1–45.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Steinberg, D. A., & Shih, V. C. (2012). Interest group influence in authoritarian states: The political determinants of Chinese exchange rate policy. Comparative Political Studies, 45(11), 1405–1434.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Teets, J. (2013). Let many civil societies bloom: The rise of consultative authoritarianism in China. The China Quarterly, 213, 19–38.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Teets, J. (2018). The power of policy networks in authoritarian regimes: Changing environmental policy in China. Governance, 31(1), 125–141.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Waters, R. D., Burnett, E., Lamm, A., & Lucas, J. (2009). Engaging stakeholders through social networking: How nonprofit organizations are using Facebook. Public relations review, 35(2), 102–106.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Wu, F. (2011). Strategic state engagement in transnational activism: AIDS prevention in China. Journal of Contemporary China, 20(71), 621–637.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Yang, Z. (2013). ‘Fragmented authoritarianism’—The facilitator behind the Chinese reform miracle: A case study in central China. China Journal of Social Work, 6(1), 4–13.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research and applications: Design and methods. Sage publications.

  53. Zhan, X., & Tang, S. Y. (2016). Understanding the implications of government ties for nonprofit operations and functions. Public Administration Review, 76(4), 589–600.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Zhang, C. (2018). Nongovernmental organizations’ policy advocacy and government responsiveness in China. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 47(4), 723–744.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Zhang, L. (2009). Domestic violence network in China: Translating the transnational concept of violence against women into local action. Women’s Studies International Forum, 32(3), 227–239.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Zhi, Q., & Pearson, M. M. (2017). China’s hybrid adaptive bureaucracy: The case of the 863 program for science and technology. Governance, 30(3), 407–424.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shuoyan Li.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

Author Shuoyan Li declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Li, S. Global Civil Society Under the New INGO Regulatory Law: A Comparative Case Study on Two INGOs in China. Voluntas 31, 751–761 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-019-00101-y

Download citation

Keywords

  • INGO
  • China
  • Civil society
  • Fragmented authoritarianism
  • Regulatory law