Reforming CSOs in China

 

Karla Simon

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Karla Simon

Karla Simon

Following up on my March and April posts, I wanted to return to the subject of reforms in the legal framework for CSOs in China. As I noted, there is a special relationship between the proposed reforms and economic restricting in China. They are also very much affected by the party-state’s attitudes about what we might call ‘new governance’. According to the theory, which first rolled out in the 12th Five Year Plan, adopted by the National People’s Congress in 2013. This theory, which relies on the state’s determination to create the ‘small government/big society’ system, aims to downsize government by outsourcing social services on a fairly massive scale to CSOs.

To ensure that this is not just theory but actually comes to fruition in practice, a couple of additional points need to be raised, which are for the Ministry to Civil Affairs (MCA) to address rather quickly. First is the need to create better governance within CSOs, not just foundations, which it seems is where most of the emphasis has been placed. This is not surprising, given that the major scandals of 2011 were in foundations, and questions as the credibility of government-related foundations continue to this day (witness the Ya’an earthquake funding problems).

But MCA needs to widen out its efforts to encompass all CSOs, not just foundations. There need to be efforts at board training (many CSO boards in China are dysfunctional).  Some academic centres, such as the BNU Philanthropy Research Institute, are beginning to do this. It needs to be scaled up and based in academic centres throughout China (just as is done in the US and the UK).

Second is the need to ensure that fundraising rules are strictly adhered to, while at the same time opening up fundraising opportunities to all CSOs. At the present, ensuring quality has meant restricting access, by which I mean that the number of nationally registered CSOs that may lawfully give tax deduction receipts is less than 200 in a country as vast as China. While many more are permitted to do so if they are registered locally or with provincial authorities, this needs to change.

How to change it? It will only be possible to do so if the MCA and the State Administration of Taxation (SAT) gain more confidence in CSOs. They can begin by promulgating national level regulations on fundraising (based on the local ones that have been adopted) and training trainers to teach CSOs as to how to conduct lawful and ethical fund raising campaigns. This could be started almost immediately and my prediction is that in five years the scandal-plagued sector will be in much better shape.

Karla W Simon (西 门 雅) is Research Professor of Law at the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law. She splits her time between Beijing and the Washington, DC area.

Tagged in: China CSOs Fundraising Legal developments Tax deductions


Comments (4)

Karla Simon

Dear Readers, This unnamed and unidentified person continues to harass us all with silly comments. I have pretty much had it with this. But I will add to that the following: Anyone who is a native English speaker or even moderately fluent in the language knows that "working in" China for x number of years in no ways implies being resident in China for that length of time. In addition, I have in fact been resident in China for parts of the past 18 years. Second, to call 2011 "remarkable" in no way implies that it was all good developments that year. In fact, there were numerous scandals in GONGOs. But what was remarkable about was not that they existed but that the controlled press and the largely uncontrolled weibo space on the internet roundly condemned them. Since this person refuses to either identify herself or to act civilly, I am done with this. But my suggestion to her is that she buy and read the 500 page book, which explains my thoughts thoroughly. Before that happens (and I doubt seriously that it will, since there is no appearance of real interest here), I have nothing else to say. I do note, however, that it took me some time to reply because I was on my way to Beijing and have been exceedingly busy since I got here. My work in Chins is unceasing and varied and I will not be deterred from it. Sincerely, Karla Simon


Billum

Your defense is that I do not understand the English language?


Karla Simon

Dear Readers, Oh my goodness! Looks like the nasties are out again. Methinks that some people really don't get the English language.... In any case. I have answered these issues before and won't bother the poor blog readers with them again. Karla


Billum

Well, you have said what the Chinese government should do, but there are very few signs that they are doing anything that you want them to do. Announcements in China Daily, which you are found of citing, are designed for non-Chinese speaking foreigners as yourself. They are propaganda. You might want to have your translators/assistants search for Chinese sources. Also, why is there a need for progress or reform? Weren't you the person who said that it was "a remarkable year" for Chinese civil society? Why would the authorities have to do anything else, since they've been so "remarkable"? Also, if the sector is "scandal-plagued", how can there be civil society, as trust is absent? If you were actually in China for more than just a visit, you would know that. You would also know that the academic centres are not like in the US and Europe. They research based on directives from Beijing or funding from outside China. But we must thank you for clarifying your actual status concerning your claim to residency in China. Before, you stated that you have worked in China for X years, while teaching in the United States--which was logistically impossible. Now you note you "split your time", which is a bit better, even if also possible to misinterpret.


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