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Taiwan Research Programme
London School of Economics and Political Science
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London, WC2A 2AE


Professor Stephan Feuchtwang

Dr Fang-Long Shih

Rethinking a Diverse but Controversial Sector: contradictions, regulations, and NGOs in Mainland China

With Dr Jianyu He (NGO Research Institute, Tsinghua University, and Contemporary China Studies Programme, Oxford University)

Series: Seminar on Taiwan in Comparative Perspective

Date: Thursday 18 November 2010, 6pm-8pm

Venue: Room S421, St Clement's Building, London School of Economics (LSE)

Chair: Dr Fang-Long Shih (Taiwan Research Programme)


Mainland China has experienced a striking upsurge of activities by non-governmental associations over the past thirty years, especially since the mid-1990s. However, because of contradictions and extreme diversity and among these new so-called NGOs, a simple theoretical paradigm such as civil society or corporatism is not sufficient to explain the nature of this emerging sector. Based on a brief review of the state of NGOs in Mainland China, this paper analyses four dimensions which reflect their diversity and the contradictions among them: (1) independent or dependent; (2) non-profit or for-profit; (3) modern or traditional; and (4) formal or informal.

Each of these dimensions has had and will have great impact on the engagement by civic associations in public policy-making and governance in Mainland China, but it has become increasingly difficult for the government to regulate this diverse sector through a uniform policy framework. Scholars such as Kang Xiaoguang have proposed a theory of "graduated control" to explain the transformation of the system used to regulate associations, and to describe the changing nature of state-society relations in China. Although, as an ideal-type, "graduated control" theory can overcome the shortcomings of methodologies which stress a dichotomy, it still oversimplifies this sector by focusing on political and public service dimensions only. The paper adds an administrative dimension to reveal how the contradictions among NGOs influences their regulation in Mainland China.

The last part of the paper compares the development of NGOs on the Mainland with the experience of the development of NGOs in Taiwan.

About the Speaker

Dr Jianyu He is currently an assistant professor of political science and research fellow in the NGO Research Institute of Tsinghua University. His main research focuses on relations between state and society, and especially relations between state and civic associations. He received his PhD in government and public administration from the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2007. The title of his PhD dissertation is "Modernization, Marketization, Policy Fluctuation and Development of Civic Associations in China". He has co-authored two books and several articles, both in Chinese and English. Throughout 2010, he is a visiting scholar at the Contemporary China Studies Programme at the University of Oxford.