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Making the State’s Volunteers in Contemporary China

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VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations Aims and scope Submit manuscript


China has experienced a striking rise of volunteerism in the past three decades while the civil society is still incipient and repressed by the authoritarian state. This seeming paradox alludes to the critical role of the state, which has been well noted but scarcely examined in the extant literature on Chinese volunteering. Analyzing 103 government documents associated with volunteering that were published between 1986 and 2017, this study explores the state’s roles and motivations in fostering volunteerism. It finds that Chinese volunteering has been incorporated into the state’s ruling scheme by developing a state-controlled volunteer service system. Volunteering is utilized for strengthening the state’s ideological hegemony, implementing innovative social management for social stability, and facilitating the Chinese Communist Party’s party building for its long-term rule. Implications and suggestions for future research are included.

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  1. yiwu can denote both duty and no pay in Chinese, the root word of which is yi (义), meaning justice or righteousness. Therefore, yiwu laodong can be translated as both voluntary labor and out-of-duty labor.


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An earlier version of this article was presented at the Chinese Sociological Association Annual Meeting at Kunming in July 2019. I thank Mark Sidel, Qianjin Zhang, and the anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Ming Hu.

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Hu, M. Making the State’s Volunteers in Contemporary China. Voluntas 32, 1375–1388 (2021).

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