Beyond Contestation

Chinese Grassroots ngos and the Role of the “Quiet Approach” and Incrementalism in Evolving State-Society Relations in China

in The China Nonprofit Review
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This paper draws on empirical research undertaken in mainland China spanning five years to examine the role of a quiet, incremental, and holistic approach adopted by grassroots ngos as they attempt to carve out greater governance and service provision roles for themselves and influence the state. In light of this approach, it also questions the way we conceptualize the autonomy of ngos and the search for contestation between ngos and the state which clouds our view of more subtle yet powerful interaction. It goes on to suggest that by adjusting the lens through which we interpret the transformation of the state-society relationship, we may be able to form a clearer understanding of the wave-like development of civil society in China as the space for social organizing expands and contracts on an upward trajectory.




Sun Liping, “Societal Transition: New Issues in the Field of Sociology of Development” Modern China 34 (2008) 88-113.


Lester Salamon and Susan Flaherty, “Non profit Law: Ten Issues In Search of Resolution,” in Working Papers of the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project, in Lester Salamon and Helmut Anheier, (The Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, 1996).


Scott Kennedy, The Business of Lobbying in China, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2009), quoted in Holly Snape, (PhD thesis) “China’s Reform Round Two: Social and Political Transformation explored through Grassroots ngos,” 2014.


Tony Saich, “Negotiating the State: the Development of Social Organizations in China,” The China Quarterly 161 (2000): 125-141.


Xi Jinping, How to Deepen Reform Comprehensively, (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2014) see “Excerpts from a speech at the second full assembly of the Second Plenary Session of the 18th cpc Central Committee, February 28, 2013.”


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