Understanding Policy Instruments for Steering Nonprofit Organizations in China: Only Carrots and Sticks?

Abstract

Government–nonprofit relations in China have transformed over the past three decades. Building on policy instrument theory, this article explores which policy instruments have been used to steer nonprofits at the central level and how the use of policy instruments has changed over time. This article is based on a content analysis of 300 central-level policy documents for nonprofits using NVivo. The results show that 22 kinds of policy instruments have been used to steer nonprofits. A steep upward trend is evident in the use of four categories of policy instruments for nonprofits: authority, incentive, information, and organization. Policy instruments for nonprofits have advanced in diversity, emphasizing indirect control. The central government continues to show a significant predisposition toward regulatory instruments, which have evolved from ex ante regulation to process and ex post regulation. This article contributes to the public management literature by identifying which policy instruments governments use to shape government–nonprofit relations.

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Source: Adapted from Hood (1983), Salamon (2002), and Howlett (2011)

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Notes

  1. 1.

    According to laws and regulations in China, nonprofit organizations include three major types: social groups, social service organizations (private non-enterprise entities), and foundations. The three types of nonprofit organizations cover a great diversity of entities. This study views nonprofit organizations in China as a single “sector” and does not distinguish these organizations.

  2. 2.

    In this study, the central government refers to the organs of the CCP Central Committee, the NPC, the State Council and its ministries, the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Procuratorate in China, not only the State Council in the narrow sense.

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Funding

The Zejin Liu received a scholarship from the charity fund of the Zhangjiajie Genting Cultural Industry Development Co. to pursue doctoral studies.

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Correspondence to Steven Van de Walle.

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Appendices

Appendix 1

See Table 3.

Table 3 Nodes of policy instruments from 300 central-level policy documents

Appendix 2

See Table 4.

Table 4 Nodes of policy instruments from 36 key policy documents

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Liu, Z., Van de Walle, S. Understanding Policy Instruments for Steering Nonprofit Organizations in China: Only Carrots and Sticks?. Voluntas 31, 736–750 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-020-00231-8

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Keywords

  • Nonprofits
  • Policy instruments
  • Government–nonprofit relations
  • China