Are there any real NGOs in China?

Nick Young

Outsiders interested in the country’s social development frequently ask whether there any ‘real’ NGOs in China. Certainly China remains one of the most government-dominated societies in the world, and in the past some international NGOs have ruled out working there because of the lack of suitable non-government partners. Other Western observers, however, have argued that ‘civil society’ is beginning to flourish.

Indeed, although government remains the major player, over the past few years a number of private individuals have found space, within a highly restrictive legal framework, to establish various kinds of social service facility. These essentially spontaneous efforts broadly reflect the release of private initiative in economic management, with the phased transition to a market economy

The beginnings of private initiative

In 1995 Ms Gao Yali of Shanghai, having travelled the country in search of therapy for her son with cerebral palsy, despaired of existing provision and set up her own facility. She has since received funding support from local and joint venture companies, and training from rehabilitation specialists in Hong Kong.

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