With China’s reform and opening-up drive in full swing in the late 1980s, the number of voluntarily organized associations was on the rise and different demands were reflected in the sector of civic association. An urgent need arose for the status, role, rights and duties of voluntarily organized associations to be defined in basic laws in line with the constitutional principle concerning civil society. The drafting of a law was put on the agenda to guarantee the rights of associations and their law-based development. This article reviews the background against which The Law on Association was drafted, the drafting process, the main content of the law, and the contentions in the drafting process, before recounting the drafting of the Regulations on Registration and Administration of Social Groups and the establishment of the Department for the Management of Social Groups. It is hoped that the experience may provide useful information for the legislation on social groups that is in the pipeline.