This talk first looks at the strategies Chinese NGOs employ domestically to survive and operate in an advanced authoritarian institutional environment. It will suggest that state and NGO interactions in China are often muted not solely due to the state restricting the sector, or the state’s fear of a potential opposing actor. Instead, the evidence suggests that a lack of interactions can be attributed to organizational differences and insufficient knowledge by both parties. In fact, once the requisite knowledge is achieved by the state, they will have a stronger desire to interact with NGOs, with the caveat they will seek to harness the material power of NGOs, rather than their symbolic, interpretive or geographical capital.
The talk thereafter poses the analytical query: what happens when Chinese NGOs that are born and socialized in such a domestic environment, are now “going out” to other jurisdictions with similar or varying political and economic regime types, and institutional environments? The talk suggests Chinese NGOs are yet to make a substantial impact in their host jurisdiction, irrespective of regime type. In fact, domestic politics and regulatory frameworks in host nations have constrained the involvement of Chinese NGOs. Fieldwork evidence from Africa and Southeast Asia suggests Chinese NGOs’ presence is generally temporary, and often involve one-off projects. Insofar social organizations will play a role, they will be in the domain of government-organized NGOs rather than (independent) NGOs.
Reza Hasmath (Ph.D., Cambridge) is a Professor in Political Science at the University of Alberta. Prior to this recent appointment he was a faculty member at the Universities of Oxford (Chinese Politics), Melbourne (Sociology and Social Policy), and Toronto (Sociology and Management). His award-winning research is currently supported by various multi-year grant schemes, notably from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation. His recent journal articles appear in the Voluntas, International Political Science Review, Development Policy Review, Journal of Civil Society, The China Quarterly, Current Sociology, and the Journal of Contemporary China. [Research Website: https://sites.google.com/site/rezahasmath/]