Chinese Nonprofits Survive and Thrive

The non-profit sector in China has always been tightly regulated, and civil groups are required to register with a government sponsor. However, Christina Larson reports for Business Week that the number of non-profits and their scale of activity have seen an increase since Xi Jinping took over as President:

In the past, Chinese grassroots groups were almost entirely supported by grants from foreign foundations and governments—such as the Ford Foundation, Open Society Institute, and embassy grants. Funding from overseas remains significant, but in the past few years, a handful of private foundations have arisen in China and begun to support local nonprofits. Last year, China’s central government also announced the launch of a 200 million renminbi ($32.5 million) fund for social initiatives—and it invited nonprofits to submit applications. Some critics worry that state funding could co-opt NGOs’ missions, but others point out that the creation of the fund is also an acknowledgement by China’s government that civil society has a legitimate role to play. That’s especially true today, as the state struggles to meet fast-expanding demand for such services as eldercare.

Another notable change is the more assertive stance of Chinese grassroots groups today, as compared with seven years ago. In 2006, a majority of groups that answered a CDB survey said they saw their primary role as “raising awareness” or collaborating with government programs. “In 2013, we see a different picture,” Shieh told a group of foreign journalists last week in Beijing. “Now more Chinese NGOs are adopting a rights-based perspective for public advocacy.” [Source]

One reason for the expansion of the non-profit sector is a rise in charitable giving, which has accompanied the growth of wealth in the country. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Despite the drop in donation value, the number of nonprofit organizations rose 6% in 2012 as more Chinese want to play an active role in philanthropy. Businessmen are increasingly turning to nonprofits where they feel they can contribute. For example, the Society of Entrepreneurs and Ecology, a non-profit organization run by property developers, uses its $4.7 million of assets on projects such as waste-water treatment.

“Chinese donors are very hands-on,” said Wei Wei, Asia director of UBS’s Optimus Foundation, an independent foundation that offers the Swiss bank’s clients options to support charity projects. “They don’t want to just write checks. They visit often and do a lot of due diligence.”

Philanthropy is on the rise in China as many realize that charitable giving can bring substantial benefits to their finances, careers and families. Being perceived as a caring entrepreneur can helpful in a society that tends to resent those who get rich fast. [Source]

The charity sector has faced public skepticism in recent year following high-profile scandals involving the Chinese Red Cross. Read more about NGOs and civil society in China, via CDT. See also the China Development Brief for more news about China’s civil society.


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