For Alliance Magazine, Karla Simon blogs about the easing of restrictions on the registration of civil society organizations in Guangdong Province:
At a party working conference held at the end of November in China’s Guangdong Province several important civil society issues were discussed, including reducing restrictions on registration and social service outsourcing. Guangdong Province’s Communist Party Chief, Wang Yang, linked the two in one of his speeches. After the conference was over a new notice on loosening entry barriers for CSOs was posted to websites in the province. A new provincial development setting out a new policy, you say, so what’s the big deal? It was such a big deal that it was featured (with analysis) in the Legal Daily, a national Communist Party (CCP) newspaper, and the story was picked up by virtually every large newspaper in China and the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. It also appeared on the national Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) website and numerous provincial civil affairs bureau websites.
The card carried by the heart says ‘Registration’ and the other text says ‘public welfare types organizing’.
For people who do not know China well (and perhaps even for some who do but are not long-term civil society watchers), the significance of the new policy can be discussed from several angles. The first of these is the government’s long-standing antipathy to independent civil society – something that amounts to a fear of independent organizations. That is certainly not going to change under the new policy. There will not be a burgeoning of activist organizations advocating for change all over China. The range of organizations that will be able to avail themselves of the new rules is, on the other hand, fairly broad, as discussed below.
It is also important to note that the developments in Guangdong were blessed at the highest levels of the Ministry in Beijing and also apparently had CCP backing in the form of Wang Yang’s endorsement mentioned above. What that means is that the government and the party are finally making more concrete their decision to partner with civil society organizations for the greater good of the Chinese people.