YU Keping: Better use of NGOs predicted

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BRUSSELS – The government will rely more on non-governmental organizations in building a harmonious society, according to an influential political thinker.

Several million unregistered social organizations operate nationwide, Yu Keping said, and the government will likely simplify their registration procedures. “I think the authority will come up with some major reforms in this regard soon,” he said. Yu is a longtime researcher on civil society and politics, and the author of Democracy Is a Good Thing, which was published in 2006. He leads a research center on governance innovation at Peking University, and is deputy director of the Communist Party of China Central Compilation and Translation Bureau.

He spoke to China Daily in Brussels, where the European Union is based. Yu’s travels have also taken him to Germany and the United States to lecture on China’s governance trends and reform.
“I can predict that China’s social organizations will be quickly developed.”

Yu’s observation and prediction grew from the messages China’s top leaders signaled during a February seminar on social management attended by all the top leaders and provincial and ministerial-level officials.
While encouraging “healthy and orderly” development of social organizations, President Hu Jintao said at the seminar that officials should improve social management capabilities and make innovations in management to “ensure a harmonious and stable society full of vitality.”

China’s civil society, called social organizations in the official documents, has emerged during the country’s market-oriented reform and opening-up. Historically, leadership in China has been government-centered.

However, the development of NGOs was stymied by legal and administrative obstacles to the NGOs. According to Yu, the biggest hindrance is the requirement that an NGO be affiliated with a governmental organization before it can be registered. Many NGOs have performed their functions underground without being approved and registered.

He estimated there are at least 3 million unregistered social organizations in China. Official statistics show there are 450,000 registered social organizations and 250,000 community organizations in China.

“The number of social organizations has been growing 8 to 10 percent annually,” Yu said, “and the new trends of reform will speed up the development.”

He also noted that social organizations were specifically mentioned and explained in the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) .

“This is the first time to emphasize such a topic in the national development plan,” Yu said. Pioneers in reforming the registration of social organizations are already at work. “Some regions such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and Zhejiang have already simplified registration and approval procedures, and NGOs in these places don’t need to find a governmental organization to be affiliated to,” Yu said.

His recent research in Shanghai found that nearly half of the social organizations there have been registered without the necessity of government approval. That is a “big step” in reform, Yu said.

He said the government has already begun to channel some public services to social organizations. Previously, the government has delivered most of those services.

In addition, social organizations can obtain financial support from the government. Five or 10 years ago, foreign organizations were the major channels of support for China’s social organizations.
“All these new developments are encouraging,” Yu said. “The country is on the right track on social management and reform, though many challenges still exist.”

In Brief

BRUSSELS – The government will rely more on non-governmental organizations in building a harmonious society, according to an influential political thinker.
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