The Hidden Rules Governing China's Unregistered NGOs: Management and Consequences

Guosheng Deng
March 2010
China Review: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Greater China;Spring2010, Vol. 10 Issue 1, p183
Academic Journal
Unregistered non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in China either have no legal support or are strictly restricted by law. In practice, however, a large number of both foreign and domestic NGOs without a legal status exist in China. This article argues that one of the reasons for the Chinese government's tolerance of this situation is because the government uses hidden rules that are not stated in the current laws and regulations to manage such NGOs. Under the precondition that these organizations do not harm state security and social stability, the Chinese government's attitude towards them is one of "no recognition, no banning, no intervention." Such hidden rules provide not only an implicit political and social framework for such NGOs to operate, but also exert influence on their modes of operation and the direction of their future development. From another point of view, the system of hidden rules for unregistered Chinese NGOs demonstrates that corporatist theory has certain limitations when used to interpret the relationship between the state and society in contemporary China. It also suggests that, in order to understand China's political environment, an examination of the written and published laws and associated regulations may not be sufficient. A thorough understanding of China's political environment also requires an in-depth exploration of the unwritten or unpublished rules in China's governmental administration system.


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