Chinese Civil Society-ENGOS

There’s no doubt that ENGOs located in China face serious restraints relative to those elsewhere. To say China’s authoritarian state is suspicious of civil society would be an understatement. Even registering  an ENGO in China requires government approval. Because of the governmental approval necessary to even register an organization, many ENGOs operate underground. Some estimates assess that nearly 90% of Chinese civil groups are underground. This proposes a new set of barriers and challenges to success. Unofficial or unregistered ENGOs do not receive the same financial benefits such as tax breaks or owning a bank account under there name. The lack of financial recognition, in turn, makes receiving donations more complicated, and makes hosting fundraisers or events more expensive. Similarly, one can imagine the difficulties in rallying support if the organization in question must hide from the government.


That being said, there are a number of ways that ENGOs operating in China can remain effective, regardless of their official status:


Journalism: Investigative journalism has long played a major role in Chinese environmental activism, and is very popular among ENGOs located here. Many of China’s current leading environmental activists began their careers through serious journalism. Some examples include petitioning and using consumer surveys. Petitioning to higher authorities has always been a popular method as well, likely due to China’s Confucian system. Consumer and citizen survey research has recently been used as a tactic to share and circulate more information, combining information politics with journalism. 


Naming and Shaming: Naming and Shaming is an old and trusted method for all ENGOs. Undercover investigations and international lab analyses offer Chinese ENGOs a solid footing to launch a naming and shaming campaign. These campaigns can be used against the government or multinational corporations.


Celebrity and CEO Activism: CEOs and celebrities are often attached to important charities or fundraising events used to gather and rally support around a cause.


Transparency Politics: Offering ordinary citizens have independent and non-governmental sources of information, they can make clearer and concise decisions. Similarly, they may feel more empowered to pressure the government/corporations to change behavior. Specifically in China, transparency politics is of the utmost importance to ENGOs. Accessible and honest data doesn’t exist as bountifully in China, due to the authoritarian nature of the state. However, in order to address China’s tragic pollution crisis, the public has to know who and what is poisoning their air and water.


Supply Chain Analysis: Increased access to data offers ENGOs the opportunity to hold corporations accountable. It is important to know where these raw materials are sources, and the environmental records of manufacturers that create consumer products. The path from raw materials to a consumer good is called a supply chain, and it is important to identify errors or flaws in the supply chain, so as to emphasize sustainable growth. Due to a lack or transparency in general, one can imagine how difficult it is to find this information. 


Use of Courts: In recent years, litigation has been a popular method for combatting environmental tragedies in China. In the documentary that we watched in class, we saw the challenges and weaknesses of the Chinese legal system. However, it remains a popular method, as faith in the legal system grows.

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