New policies and issues addressed in the lead-up to the China leadership change in November


Karla Simon

Karla Simon

Karla Simon

Ahead of the long-awaited leadership change during the Party Congress now scheduled for 8 November, there have been a few developments at MCA and with regard to social organization reforms generally. In addition, China Development Brief (English) has published a thoughtful piece on whether grassroots CSOs are able to actually participate in the reforms. One of the developments in government was the announcement by the Ministry of Civil Affairs of the units that have had excellent records in the previous year.

More importantly, the national-level ministry announced new regulations on cooperation activities for social organizations. They are an important response to some illegal related transactions in cooperation between CSOs and other organizations, such as collecting money through selling their brands without proper supervision during activities, charging mandatory fees and utilizing the names of government officials for for-profit activities. This is also an important supplement for regulating financial management of CSOs. Finally, the regulations also provide some guidelines for international organizations that want to cooperate with domestic CSOs, such as preparing written agreements, investigating the credit of domestic organizations for risk evaluation and enhancing supervision during activities, though these guidelines were not explicitly listed in this regulation.

Finally, there have been a couple of recent speeches by high-ranking Party members about the reforms in Guangdong. Firstly, Wang Yang, the Guangdong Province Party Secretary, emphasized in a speech in early October the importance of reforms in the province with regard to industry associations. .

In addition, Zhu Mingguo, the Deputy Party Secretary for Guangdong Province, stressed in a recent speech at a social organization working conference that it is important to push forward with the province’s deepening social organization reforms. Some of the issues discussed included the following:

  • A number of social organizations are to undertake the functions of the government (outsourcing). Zhu Mingguo said that promoting the reform of social organization is an urgent need of innovative social management whose objective is to improve public services for the citizens. The aim is ‘de-monopolization’ of service provision in accordance with a socialist market system.
  • Society organizations and resistance to reform. He also stressed that ‘de-monopolization’ will inevitably touch vested interests, requiring a pattern of adjustment because some people do not want to reform. They are afraid of something happening and thus there may be a one-sided emphasis on the difficulties. He said that it is important to enhance the quality of social organizations, to build real self-development of them. They must be nurtured and develop their capacities.
  • Increasing decentralization efforts with lenient entry must also be accompanied by strict oversight. Zhu Mingguo also discussed fostering the development of social organizations in conjunction with reforms of the administrative examination and approval system. He mentioned increasing decentralization efforts and the creation of sound government transfer of functions, within a purchase of services system. He stressed the establishment of a comprehensive monitoring mechanism for CSOs: ‘taking a step back on the registration, leads to two steps forward in oversight’.

Express News reporter Liu Cao reported on this event.

Yet despite these developments touted by the government on official websites, China Development Brief (English) posted a Policy Analysis stating that the deck is stacked against grassroots CSOs in China. Not only does the article tackle issues of discrimination against some labour CSOs in Shenzhen (amid outright thuggery, to be exact), it also mentions that in many places most of the contracting out to CSOs involves only industry associations and GONGOs. This problem has been noted by me elsewhere (in academic articles and my forthcoming book), but it goes without saying that it must be addressed if actual reforms for the entire sector are to be achieved in the future. It is a hopeful sign that Zhu Mingguo appears to address the need for CSO capacity building as one remedy that should enable more grassroots CSOs to engage in contracting with the government to provide much-needed social services.

Karla Simon’s forthcoming book, Civil Society in China: A legal analysis from ancient times to the ‘new reform era’ has been called ‘the definitive book’ on the subject by Oxford University Press, her publisher. Law professor Ge Yunsong (of Peking University Law School) endorses the book in this fashion: ‘As the most active and respected foreign expert on China’s reform of NPO law for the past 15 years, Prof Simon’s book is very insightful’.

Addendum –

It was announced on 17 October that the Beijing municipal government will begin direct registration of social organizations. For more information see This development will be analysed in Karla’s next post.

Tagged in: China Civil society CSOs Government

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