The functioning and dysfunctioning of NGOs in transitional China : change and continuity in state-society relations
Despite the rapid development of NGOs in China in the last two decades and the growing interest in them in both academic and policy circles, research on Chinese NGOs has suffered from a lack of both detailed qualitative data and sophisticated analytical frameworks. The present thesis is an attempt to address both gaps in existing research. It draws on a large amount of information generated by in-depth case studies of NGOs, and it replaces the state-versus-society dichotomous framework that has underpinned most existing studies of Chinese NGOs with a new approach that disaggregates both the "state" and "society" and emphasizes their inter-penetration. The thesis challenges a number of existing analyses of Chinese NGOs. Contrary to common belief that Chinese NGOs lack autonomy from the state, it argues that many of them have in fact enjoyed a remarkable degree of de facto autonomy. Whilst Chinese NGOs are widely perceived as lacking many basic skills that urgently need to be developed by means of organizational capacity building programmes, the thesis suggests that many NGOs already possess sophisticated skills which may be different from those taught by standard NGO training programmes but which are well suited to the specific institutional context of transitional China. The thesis looks at how Chinese NGOs operate in this context and examines the key factors that have limited their usefulness both as service providers and as advocates for vulnerable and disadvantaged members of society. It concludes with some reflections on the evolution of state-society relations in post-reform China as revealed by this study of NGOs. It summarizes change and continuity in state-society relations in the notion of dependent autonomy. This means that social forces have gained substantial autonomy from the state, but they continue to depend on the state for various vital support and resources.