Charity diversity, social management innovation and international CSOs – some recent developments in China


Karla Simon

Karla Simon

Karla Simon

At a conference on ‘City Charity and Charity Innovation’, held in connection with a recent charity fair in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Minister of Civil Affairs Li Liguo noted that in recent years, Ningxia has put charity in a more prominent position and is working to create a good Yellow River City charity experience. A report from the fair suggests that philanthropy in China is diversifying. It cites various kinds of foundations that are being set up, both by corporate entities and by entrepreneurs, new forms of cooperation between business and charities, and new ways of fundraising. Some of its examples are:

  • Large state-owned energy enterprise Shenhua Group established the Hua Gongyi Foundation in 2010 with a 10 billion RMB endowment. During the past two years its projects involved helping the poor, environmental protection, support for student teaching assistants and other areas.
  • Hitachi Elevator (China) Co Ltd recently established cooperation with the China Siyuan Engineering Foundation for Poverty Alleviation.
  • Some private foundations seek a win-win situation through cooperation with grassroots charitable organizations. Founded in 2010, the China Children’s Charity Relief Fund is a successful example of such cooperation. Jiang Ying, project director of the foundation, said the positioning of the foundation as people-funded makes it ‘fully transparent’. The national foundation was able to absorb 20 influential grassroots charitable organizations. This means that on the one hand they could legitimately engage in public fundraising; on the other hand more of the projects were closer to the people. Jiang thinks that this will attract more private donations. Individual donations in 2011 accounted for 54% of total contributions, which is the highest of any foundation in China.
  • Many charitable organizations have launched online payment platforms, providing convenience for the general public who want to participate in the cause of charity.

For more see (Chinese).

These developments are important because Ningxia Hui autonomous region is populated by minorities and is less well developed than the coastal cities. Nonetheless, its government has been very forward-looking in this area – for example, the region published charity regulations last autumn, which are intended to increase charitable giving by creating more trust among donors.

‘New Social Management’

A recent article in China Development Brief (English) highlights the ways in which the ‘new social management’ has made more room for CSOs. See Liu Haiying, How the Official Discourse of ‘Social Management Innovation’ Has Expanded theSpace for NGOs. The English version is a translation from the Chinese article, which appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of CDB (for which Liu Haiying was the editor).

Specifically with respect to Shanghai, the Pudong New Area has been named an innovator for the new social management. Initiated by the private sector, social workers are operating autonomously from industry regulatory bodies through the Pudong New Area Association of Social Workers. This is the first mainland service organization of social workers serving civil society. In addition, the nation’s first incubator of public interest organizations is the charity organization development center in Pudong.

Why in Pudong? The area has unique conditions, according to a recent news story. The Pudong New Area Civil Affairs Bureau leader Zhuangda Jun put forward the concept of ‘small government, big society’ right at the beginning of the construction of the Pudong New Area. Since Pudong grassroots cadres believe in this concept and, since social workers do a good job, of course government trusts them, says a recent news story. It is also through the unique political and social cooperation interactive mode, which stimulates social activity, that Pudong New Area is able more effectively to meet the demand for public services.

International organizations

A recent conference in Beijing sponsored by the East-West Center focused on various issues, including international philanthropy. Experts at the conference cited the difficulties facing international CSOs operating in China, including the lack of a positive legal framework. Of course this issue is to be addressed in the new regulations, currently under review by the State Council. But all indications from the government are that additional experimentation with provincial regulations will be needed before there are national-level regulations. Although international foundations are permitted to register local offices under the 2004 foundation regulations (and many are registered, as noted in a previous blog), there are now rules for other CSOs. At present Yunnan Province is the only place where non-foundation CSOs may be recognized, in a procedure called bei’an.

A recent story, NPOs marred by legal loopholes, in China Daily says that a report published in April by the China Charity and Donation Information Center affiliated with the Ministry of Civil Affairs showed that less than 3% of 1,000 US-based NPOs operating in China had registered with Chinese civil affairs authorities. In addition, it quotes an anonymous source from Hong Kong who said ‘It’s a pity that we cannot access charitable resources on the mainland especially given that the growing middle class is becoming more enthusiastic in donating’.

Karla Simon (奚文雅) is professor of law and director of faculty development at the Catholic University of America and has worked in China for over 16 years

Further articles from Alliance magazine related to these subjects:

Tagged in: China Corporate philanthropy Fundraising Legal developments

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