What Role Do Chinese Civil Society Organisations Play?

1 January 2017

What role do Chinese civil society organisations (CSO) play? Please answer this question with reference to at least three different Chinese CSOs. Chinese civil society organisations (CSOs) are non-governmental, non-profitable community based schemes who aim to tackle and address the social problems afflicting The People’s Republic of China, with the majority of their efforts based in the rural areas of the country. These organisations can range from small groups of a few people to groups exceeding a million people (Wang 2009).

Their emergence and development have arisen by a combination of Government and market failure to deliver an adequate social service to it is citizens, but more importantly a “broadened social base. ” The growing active participation of citizens within the public sphere and public affairs (Wang 2009). Within China, CSOs vary considerable in regards to their size, area, scope and nature however they all possess the same four basic civic functions, resource mobilization, public services, social governance and policy advocacy (Wang 2009).

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These functions tackle economic, social and environmental problems and aim to enact change within these sectors. Examples of common injustices include income deprivation, unemployment, inadequate access to health care and education, discriminatory labour conditions and practises, gender inequality and environmental degradation. This essay shall analyse the role CSOs play in China, and use examples of such organisations to evaluate their impact. Socially, Chinese CSOs have a fundamental role to play within the People’s Republic of China.

They effectively tackle the main social issues afflicting the majority of the population which include problems such as access to education and health, gender inequality and inadequate social welfare. For example China Youth Development Foundation, established at the end of the 20th Century is a mass organisation under the Communist Youth League. The organisation mobilizes funds raised locally and internationally to help youth education and social welfare. An illustration of its success is “Project Hope”, a project aimed and ensuring children of rural areas gain access to formal education.

By the end of 2005 the initiative had built “12,559 primary schools and 200 Internet Schools” in poor rural areas (Edward, 2005). Furthermore it trained over 30,000 village primary school teachers and developed over 13,000 Hope library kits. Such a drive has helped over two million children from poor families receive their basic nine years of education. The CSO further rewarded China’s rural youth by establishing a reward fund to support the top ranked students in further studies.

The organisation also attempts to better China’s youth’s knowledge of health, and in particular HIV and Aids via its “Action Red Ribbon. ” It is a programme to increase HIV/Aids awareness amongst children in badly affected areas. Its eventual goal is to increase awareness in these areas by over 70% over the coming years (China Youth Development, 2004). The organisation is mainly funded by cash and in-kind contributions from major corporations such as Motorola and Nokia, which were paramount to it raising $7. million and made $7 million in grants in 2002 (Edward, 2005).

China Family Planning Association further targets adolescents, as a means to bring about change within rural areas. They like the CYD, educate adolescents on the risks of HIV/Aids, and ensure they are aware of their sexual and reproductive rights, thus empowering them to make informed decisions. They also attempt to aid females, and in particular attempt to reduce the number of unsafe abortions by recognising a woman’s right to a safe abortion and providing the required services.

A further NGO which helps impoverished women is the Cultural Development Center for Rural Woman, a non-profit organisation which promotes the legal and social rights and opportunities of rural woman in China. It launched a monthly magazine called “Rural Women Magazine” which offered advice to its readers on rights and services available legally to woman. The revenue from the sales of this magazine has been used by the NGO to fund their research and activism. In addition the group has also established a training centre which offers women courses in practical skills such as computing, sewing and hairdressing but also gender awareness classes.

However though these examples may illustrate that socially, CSOs play an important role, (mobilising resources, mainly manpower, money and training, and delivering an improved public service in the form of health care and education), their influence is in reality restricted because of a number of challenges. Initially many organisations including the aforementioned China Youth Development Foundation have been dogged with rumours of corruption (Edward, 2005).

Though cleared of financial improprieties by the Central Commission of Discipline Inspection (Xin Dingding, 2004), Yong and Ran (2004) argue that “questions remain about the effectiveness and commitment of the CCDI itself. As a result Chinese donors became sceptical of fully supporting such organisations for purposes of poverty reduction, and social improvement (Edward, 2005). Economically, CSOs in China play an important role and tend to concentrate their efforts in rural areas of the country, due to their high tendency of income inequality, wage discrimination and poor working conditions amongst its residents.

Their efforts stem from the Government’s failure to protect rural workers economic rights, and develop rural areas economically. The Amity Foundation set up in the mid 1980’s as a sub group under the Chinese Protestant Association, concentrates its efforts on field based rural poverty projects. For example in 2002, its “integrated rural development project”, this spanned six provinces and helped over one hundred thousand citizens. The project funded mainly by western aid sought to increase rural household economic sustainability via farming and livestock training, watershed management and microcredit for women.

The charity raises its funds from private donations in major Chinese cities such as Nanjing, and offers donors the option of donating their gifts to specific issues or projects (Amity Foundation, 2004). However it could be argued that overall CSOs play a small role economically within Chinese Society due to the restrictive practises by the ruling communist party, combined with their strict legal laws. These included the need to “register with a sponsoring state agency that would oversee and be responsible for the organization’s activities” (Edward, 2005).

Another restrictive policy was the banning of “similar organizations” co-existing at the various administrative levels, for example prohibiting the presence of two national trade unions. This results in reducing the number of registered non-profit organisations and keeps their operating number low (Du, 2003). In addition the policy of microcredit (the lending of small amounts of money to individuals with no collateral) which has shown signs of being very successful is inhibited by Government action.

Initially, rates of lending are set externally by the People’s Bank of China so fail to allow for flexibility for NGOs to choose a level which facilitates their expansion. This is combined with the Government prohibiting the charitable organisations from collecting pools of borrower savings and payments. Such collections can be used as a “revolving fund” to increase clients and guarantee present borrowers have a real stake in the project (Du, 2003).

Such a policy is thus counterproductive as it prevents CSOs from mobilising “new resources to strengthen and expand their rural lending activities” (Wu, 2001). Environmentally the role played by CSOs such as the Yunnan PRA Network (established In 1993) is key to nature and agricultural conservation amidst China’s rapid economic growth (Edward, 2005). It’s “Participatory Rapid Appraisal Network” promotes the use of sustainable techniques and planning in potentially environmentally damaging projects.

For example the organisation has trained village leaders in citizen participation and decision making (World Bank, 2002). Environmental CSOs importance have been increased by the growing trend of foreign companies to work alongside them with new projects within China to aim to reduce pollution and promote greater awareness of environmental damage (Du, 2003). In conclusion CSOs number and importance in China has increased mainly to tackle the issue of rural poverty. Each deploys specific strategies, financed by various sources to reach their target sector, social, economic or environmental.

Their role collectively and individually is a prerequisite and growing within Chines society due to the failure of the Government to provide an adequate social service to the whole population. However their ultimate impact is, and will continue to be limited due to the main constraints on them, including rigid government management policies and corruption. However there is potential for the eventual establishment of the precedent of government officials working alongside CSOs productively to effectively respond to the issues within the civil society, mainly rural poverty.

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