New central committee document emphasizes role of social organizations as service providers

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The Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee has reviewed and approved the “Decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Adhering to and Improving the Socialist System with Chinese Characteristics and Advancing the National Governance System and the Modernization of Governance Capabilities” (hereinafter referred to as the “Decision”).

An article by the Charity Times, China’s most respected publication on the philanthropy and non-profit sectors, notes that the document contains a few specifications that are of interest to charities and social organizations. Some of the requirements of the “Decision” relevant to the charity sector are as follows: “China will adhere to and improve the urban and rural people’s livelihood security system to meet the people’s growing need for a better life”, and “create innovative public service methods, encourage support for social forces to set up charitable undertakings, meet the diverse needs of the people, and make the reform and development achievements more fair to the benefit of all people.”

Furthermore, article 6 (2) of the “Decision” proposes “emphasizing the role of the third distribution and developing social welfare undertakings such as charity.” The “third distribution” mentioned here refers to the concept that there are three different levels of distribution of resources in a market economy: the first one is the market’s distribution according to efficiency; the second one is the government’s redistribution through taxation and administrative expenditure; and the third level of redistribution comes through individual citizens donating to charity. The Charity Times article concludes that it is necessary for social organizations to consider how to think from the perspective of the “third distribution” in terms of refactoring their own fundraising, project design, project evaluation logic and execution system.

It is also noted that the “Decision” puts “innovate public service methods” ahead of “encouraging support for social forces to promote their cause”. That is to say, social forces have become an encouraged and innovative way of providing public services. This means, as the Charity Times article claims, that the “charity sector needs to meet the requirements of public services: not acting out of pity, but out of a sense of responsibility; not giving handouts from the top downward, but providing services from the bottom up; not bringing luck to the beneficiaries, but fulfilling their rights.”

Deng Guosheng, deputy dean of the School of Public Administration at Tsinghua University, is quoted as saying that the “Decision” shows that the role of charity in the third distribution is increasingly prominent; one of the most important functions of the charity sector is to provide public services; and the role of social organizations is clear, that is, cooperating with government departments and participating in social governance under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee. Professor Deng added that social organizations must clearly understand this and integrate themselves into the national governance system, so that they can achieve a good development and play their due role.