Not much ‘new’ news from China as 18th Party Congress wraps up


Karla Simon

Karla Simon

Karla Simon

Makeup of the new ‘Politburo’

With many tales in the Western and local media of the difficulty of doing anything in Beijing besides merely going to work, the 18th Party Congress was grinding to a halt as the new leaders filed onto the stage at the Great Hall of the People on Thursday 15 November. Although it had earlier been widely rumored that Wang Yang, one of the leading social reformers in China, might be among the highest echelons of the party, in the end he was not. Instead he was elected to the 25-member Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Politburo) as he had been earlier.

Wang is the current Communist Party Chief in Guangdong Province, which is where the ‘Guangdong Model’ of direct registration for CSOs with the Ministry of Civil Affairs originated. Guangdong is also where the civil protests over land grabs by local officials in the village of Wukan were peacefully settled (with a bit of backsliding later) at the beginning of 2012.

Speculation about Wang’s ascendency continued into the autumn, but as time for the Congress drew closer it began to appear that this would not happen. A Chinese academic with close party contacts told Jeremy Page of the Wall Street Journal that this signals a slight retrenchment of political reforms. On the other hand, it is not at all clear whether social reforms, such as the support for civil society outlined in the 12th Five-Year Plan, will also be cut back.

Perhaps Wang has been viewed as too much of a populist by the powers that be. We will, of course never know, but at least for now Wang is left in Guangzhou to pursue his enlightened social agenda, which has won praise from people both inside and outside China. While he retains the Politburo rank, he is one of 25, as he was earlier, and not one of the seven leaders.

President Hu Jintao’s ‘legacy’

President Hu Jintao’s legacy arguably includes the social reforms for civil society referred to in the previous section. While no one knows for sure whether the development of civil society will occur along the lines presented in the 12th Five-Year Plan, two things remains significant about Hu Jintao and his legacy. One is that the ‘new reform era’ for civil society began with the easier recognition rules for CSOs working at the local level in 2002 in Qingdao. The other is that the 12th Five-Year Plan itself has an entire chapter devoted to ‘social organizations’.

Other news

Minister Li Liguo talks about CSO registration again

Minister of Civil Affairs Li Liguo recently announced that it is likely that charity, public welfare and social service organizations will follow the Beijing pilot model of allowing direct registration.

Private Foundation Forum to be held; grassroots CSOs invited

With ‘pursuit of excellence’ as the theme, the 4th China Private Foundation will be held at the Guangzhou Baiyun International Convention Center on 22-23 November. As agreed the previous year, invitations have been issued to 50 outstanding grassroots CSOs – free registration will be available and their travel expenses will be paid. China’s Private Foundation Forum was initiated in 2008 by eight private foundations, and it is an informal network of private foundations to promote China’s non-public funds. It is aimed at strengthening the communication and cooperation between China’s private foundations and the development and public service industries. The current forum is cosponsored by 15 private foundations. There will also be discussions of effective use and management of funds and corresponding strategies, methods and specific practice.

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

Tagged in: China Civil society Social reform Wang Yang

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