People's Daily Editorial Suggests that Communist Party Control Over NGOs May Be Tightening

December 20, 2004

A December 11 People's Daily editorial suggests that Party officials may be moving to tighten control over Chinese non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The editorial emphasizes the need for NGOs to carry out Party policies and ideology and to adhere to relevant laws and regulations. Calling on Party and government organizations to exercise leadership over NGOs, the editorial stresses that the Party and government should work together to achieve the “development and supervision” of NGOs. The writer describes the value of NGOs in utilitarian terms: they are good for resolving local conflicts, providing social services, and giving Party officials a channel to understand local opinions.

The editorial follows other official pronouncements on the need to increase the Party’s governance capacity, and accompanies recent crackdowns on dissident authors. Foreign news media also have been reporting (New York Times, subscription required) on the efforts of Chinese leaders to tighten control over society. Cumulatively, these articles and statements suggest that the Chinese government may be moving to reassert control over civil society organizations.

The editorial may also represent an indirect rejection of the reform proposals for current civil society regulations that several leading academics offered recently. These proposals suggested, among other things, that the government abolish the requirement for government or Party “sponsorship” of a Chinese NGO before it can register as a legal entity. This requirement is a key component of government control over civil society in China. (For more information, see the civil society section of the Commission's 2004 Annual Report).