Changing Spaces for Civil Society Organisations in China

  • Home
  • >
  • Others
  • >
  • Changing Spaces for Civil Society Organisations in China

This paper was written by Dr. Berthold Kuhn, from the Department of Political Sciences of the Free University of Berlin. Below is the paper’s abstract.


Concerns about shrinking spaces for civil society organisations have risen in China over the past years, in particular among international nonprofit organisations. The third sector in China, however, continued its growth in numbers, diversity and activities of organisations, accounting for more than 700,000 registered organisations. Government’s financial support to nonprofits significantly increased through contracting out of services. The new Charity Law contains provisions for public fundraising activities, including for on- line platforms. International activities of Chinese nonprofits took off in the context of participation in global conferences. Chinese NGOs also started to engage in delivering humanitarian aid to communities in other countries. Assessments on shrinking or changing spaces for civil society in China much depend on the type of organisations in focus.

This paper pays attention to discourses related to NGO development in China and sheds light on changing spaces for different types of nonprofits in China, those that are negatively affected by new regulations and different kinds of restrictions and those benefiting from emerging opportunities in the context of growing cooperation with the government or the business sector. Analysis based on interviews and talks with experts in China and abroad shows that advocacy-oriented organisations and those receiving foreign funding tend to face more difficulties. Larger international nonprofits with a long track-record in China, however, are seen to continuing or even expanding their activities.

Related Reading