Growth in donations decreases in 2017, CASS report finds

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Last week the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) released the “Blue Book of Charity (2018): a report on the development of Chinese charity”.

The report reveals that while the total volume of donations across China has continued to grow, the speed of that growth was significantly reduced between in 2017. In 2016 the total volume of donations nationally was 145.8 billion Yuan, representing a 20% growth on the previous year and the biggest annual increase in 20 years. In 2017, on the other hand, total donations were estimated at 155.8 billion Yuan, a 6.86% growth on the previous year and the smallest annual increase since 2012.

According to research by Rong Zong He, the acting dean of the Zhongmin Social Assistance Institute, the reason for the particularly fast increase in donations in 2016 can be found in the government’s call to make targeted poverty alleviation (精准扶贫) a national priority. As a result, donations to poverty alleviation programs saw a sudden and sharp increase. The slowing down of growth in 2017 can be seen as a natural adjustment.

The CASS report also found that in 2017 the growth in the number of new social organizations (the Chinese terms for non-profits) saw a noticeable downturn compared to previous years. The growth in the number of new foundations decreased to 13.74%, the lowest figure in recent years, while the growth in new social groups and “citizen-run non-enterprise units” (民办非企业单位) was slightly higher than in 2016, but still lower than in the preceding years.

This is surprising, since the release of the Charity Law in September 2016 was generally seen as helping China’s social organizations to officially register with the government, a step which used to be a big hurdle for many of them. When asked, CASS researcher Yang Tuan came up with two explanations for this data. The first one is that many of the specific regulations that were meant to accompany the Charity Law have not yet been released. The second reason given was that the monitoring of social organizations by the authorities has become stricter. As the researcher told 公益资本论, “I heard some of the relevant leaders say: we already have too many social organizations, and we find it hard to monitor them all, what’s the point of creating all these new ones?”.