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Non-Governmental Organizations and Grassroots Democracy


By Zhao Shukai, Development Research Center of the State Council

In the process of social transition, there have arisen various new social problems and social demands. Solving these problems and meeting these demands also depend on, apart from government efforts, organized social forces. For either governments or social groups, bottom-up non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are required to play a positive role. NGOs could constitute crucial conditions and generate important outcomes for democratic political development. The rapid development of NGOs is one of the new characteristics in China’s society. Meantime, NGOs are key areas that could create employment opportunities. Meeting social demands and relieving employment pressure are important drives for the development of NGOs. The right for self-management and social influence of NGOs are also increasing. The entities of NGOs are mainly active in grassroots societies. Viewing from urban and rural communities, some NGOs are related and some are not related to communities. At the same time, rural NGOs include several types such as economic cooperation organizations, organizations for protecting rights and interests, social service organizations, and religious organizations. NGOs’ organization capacity has become swiftly enhanced. One prominent feature is a shift from taking independent action to taking joint action, which is mainly reflected in the following aspects: they have become aware of capacity construction, consciously studied action strategies, and established cooperation, shared experience and expanded influence by various means. NGOs have played an increasingly prominent role in social governance. NGOs can undertake public services that used be undertaken by the government, and are major providers of some public goods. In the course of social transition, NGOs have unique advantages in tackling social problems and can take the responsibility to intervene in situations where government and market failures occur. However, as for social order, NGOs are in nature a double sword since they may as well cause negative impacts. The mushrooming of NGOs has obviously added some uncontrollable factors to social order. This is the most strikingproblem in face of China’s current society. The key is how the government could exercise proper supervision and regulation over NGOs.

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