China's overseas NGO law and the future of international civil society

  • China’s law to control international non-governmental organisations (INGOs) has sent shockwaves through international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society and expert communities as the epitome of a worldwide trend of closing civic spaces. Since the Overseas NGO Management Law was enacted in January 2017, its implementation has seen mixed effects and diverging patterns of adaptation among Chinese party-state actors at the central and local levels and among domestic NGOs and INGOs. To capture the formal and informal dynamics underlying their mutual interactions in the longer term, this article employs a theory of institutional change inspired by Elinor Ostrom’s distinction between rules-in-form versus rules-in-use and identifies four scenarios for international civil society in China – “no change,” “restraining,” “recalibrating” and “reorienting.” Based on interviews, participant observation and Chinese policy documents and secondary literature, the respective driving forces, plausibility, likelihood and longer-term implications of each scenario are assessed. It is found that INGOs’ activities are increasingly affected by the international ambitions of the Chinese party-state, which enmeshes both domestic NGOs and INGOs as agents in its diplomatic efforts to redefine civil society participation on a global scale.
Author:Heike Holbig, Bertram Lang
Parent Title (English):Journal of contemporary Asia
Place of publication:Abingdon
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2021/09/08
Date of first Publication:2021/09/08
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2022/04/19
Tag:Belt and Road Initiative; China; institutional change; international civil society; non-governmental organisations
Page Number:28
First Page:1
Last Page:28
Field research for this article was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of its German-Sino Alumni Network programme.
Dewey Decimal Classification:3 Sozialwissenschaften / 30 Sozialwissenschaften, Soziologie / 300 Sozialwissenschaften
3 Sozialwissenschaften / 32 Politikwissenschaft / 320 Politikwissenschaft
3 Sozialwissenschaften / 34 Recht / 340 Recht
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung 4.0