Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Talking about Chinese Philanthropy and Civil Society in the U.S.

I'm currently on home leave in the U.S., supposedly on vacation but at this point more work than vacation.  I figure now that I've left the Great Firewall I should use this opportunity to blog at least once, just to say I did it.   So this post is pure in the sense that it hasn't been filtered or laundered through a VPN or anonymous proxy.

While on home leave, I'm taking advantage of being on the east coast to promote the work I've been doing with China Development Brief, in particular our special issue on New Trends in Philanthropy and Civil Society that is appearing on our website at  I just finished a talk at the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations today on that topic.  The talk was held at the Luce Foundation's conference room in their lovely 30th floor office with beautiful views of the city.  There was haze on the horizon which made me feel like I was in Beijing, right at home!

I couldn't imagine a better venue for my talk than the Luce Foundation.  Luce is one of the big names in philanthropy and they have a major Asia program to improve U.S. understanding of Asia.  There is also a China connection.  Henry Luce set up the foundation as a tribute to his parents who were missionaries and educators in China during the first half of the 20th century.  All four of the Luce children were born in China.  So to give a talk on philanthropy and civil society in China at the Luce headquarters seemed very fitting.

The talk went smoothly, aside from some initial technical problems with the computer.  I spoke about my work with China Development Brief (English), and spent some time discussing what constitutes the nonprofit/NGO/philanthropic sector in China before getting to the meat of the talk which was to lay out the major findings from the 12 articles we translated for our special issue on philanthropy and civil society.

For those interested, my discussion of the nonprofit sector and the major findings will be laid out in an introduction to the special issue that should be on our website soon.  Given the anxiety in the U.S. about the human rights situation in China, I expected more questions about the political situation for nonprofits in China, but there were none, though that may have had something to do with the limited time for Q&A.

In any case, the main purpose of my talk, beyond promoting CDB, was to send the message that there is a great deal of change going on in the nonprofit world in China despite the recent crackdowns on individual activists.

Next week I'll be giving a talk on the same topic next Tuesday, July 26 at the Kissinger Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. 

After that, a week in San Diego and then back to Beijing where I may finally be able to take that vacation!

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