Sunday, August 15, 2010

Talking to some NGOs in Sichuan

August 13, 2010

I’ve been talking to some international NGO people here in Sichuan and the impression I come away with is one of frustration and caution. Frustration at the Chinese government’s inability to make life easier for international NGOs, either with regard to registration or carrying out public activities.  Caution about visiting Tibetan NGOs in western Sichuan and Qinghai.  

Talking with these INGOs, I realize why the Chinese government would be so concerned and conflicted about INGOs.  On one hand, they see these INGOs as a source of funds and a conduit to the larger international community.  On the other, they know that these INGOs represent very different agendas, and are concerned about their role in fomenting social conflict. There are INGOs that want to help China solve problems such as poverty and disease, but there are also those with an agenda that the Chinese government views with suspicion.  These include NGOs that want to help workers, farmers and those infected with HIV/AIDS enforce their legal rights, NGOs like the NED that had a hand in the “color revolutions” in the former Soviet republics, and NGOs funded by Tibetan exile groups.

What the Chinese government faces in the international NGO community is, in short, a microcosm of the pluralist interest group community that we are used to in democratic societies.  Only the Chinese have to deal with them in their own backyard.  I’m not condoning the Chinese government’s behavior, but if I was an authoritarian government concerned foremost about stability and staying in power, I might be doing what the Chinese are doing to international NGOs now – letting many of them operate here, but making life difficult for them.   In that way, the Chinese hope to have their cake and eat it too.

1 comment:

  1. 您好Shieh教授,

    I stumbled onto your blog while researching NGOs in China for a potential Fulbright project proposal. I am interested in researching the role of NGOs in the post-Wenchuan earthquake recovery. However, the more I research this, the more difficult it seems to be able to conduct research of this kind. As you mentioned in your blog, NGOs do not have the easiest time in China, which makes me wonder if an attempt by an American to work with some and learn from them would be viewed with suspicion by the Chinese authorities.
    If you could enlighten me with some advice and references to people in Sichuan that could be of help, I would greatly appreciate it. My email is

    Claire Beatley