Kang Xiaoguang: is social organizations’ future development hopeful?

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This article is an interview with Kang Xiaoguang, director of Renmin University’s NPO Research Center. Kang shares his thoughts on a series of issues such as the definition of social organizations, government supervision of NGOs, NGOs funding sources, tax exemptions, and concludes by saying he is very optimistic for the future development of social organizations (especially service based).

Kang explains that according to Prof. Salamon, from Johns Hopkins University, a social organization has to fulfill five criteria to be considered as such: be an actual organization with a legal status, be non-governmental, non-profit, self-managed and ideal-driven or working for the public good. Kang explains that nearly none of social organizations in China fit all of these criteria, mainly because it if very difficult to be both non-governmental and have a proper legal status at the same time. Therefore, he defines two principal criteria social organizations have to meet to be considered as such in the Chinese context: they have to carry out non-profit activities and do it in a way non-profits would.

In so far as government supervision is concerned, he explains that the government has by essence a dual role: provide public services and keep its power and manage society. Therefore, the government favors service-based organizations that help him in his public service mission but resents organizations that discuss its policies and challenge it.

On funding sources, Kang’s take is that currently, most Chinese foundations raise funds for themselves and implement projects directly, failing in their mission to help develop the Chinese third sector further. He stresses the notable exception of the Narada Foundation which uses 80-90% of its funds for grant-making. On tax exemptions, he says laws already exist and that the main problem is that relevant departments do not want to implement them. Therefore, instead of asking for new laws, one should focus on promoting the implementation of current ones.