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postgraduate thesis: From dependence to autonomy?: institutional change and the evolution of charitable GONGOs in China

TitleFrom dependence to autonomy?: institutional change and the evolution of charitable GONGOs in China
Authors
Advisors
Advisor(s):Lee, EWY
Issue Date2011
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Luo, W. [罗文恩]. (2011). From dependence to autonomy? : institutional change and the evolution of charitable GONGOs in China. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b4833002
AbstractWith the rapid expansion of the state- led philanthropy sector over the past decade, charitable GONGOs have become salient players in China’s third sector. These organizations have acted as “transmission belts” between the state and society by placing government demands in the first priority and posed no challenges to the political hierarchy. However, several events occurring after the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake implied that charitable GONGOs began to secure an independent identity in pursuit of their own interests. I argue that traditional analytical frameworks to address state-society relations in China, namely civil society and corporatist approach, cannot fully explain this new phenomenon. Thus I propose a two- level institutional change model to explore why and how charitable GONGOs began to pursue an independent identity. At the societal level, three institutional sources are identified which are driving charitable GONGOs to detach themselves from the government: functional, legitimization and political pressure. At the organizational level, I argue that charitable GONGOs will adopt divergent strategies to pursue autonomy, and propose three interrelated propositions to explain their choices. The research methods used in this thesis include macro-historical analysis and the case study. In regard to the former, I review the laws, regulations, policies, past significant events and statistical data related to the philanthropy sector to explore how the change of general social context exerts impact on charitable GONGOs. I then use the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation and China Charity Federation as cases to analyze why and how charitable GONGOs have devised divergent strategies to secure organizational autonomy. This study discloses that with the notable change in the economic, social and political environment; charitable GONGOs are encountering three institutional pressures to separate themselves from the government. First, functional pressure derived from the rise of new donors and private foundations. Second, the past malpractices of charitable GONGOs, including the administrative fundraising campaign, the “black box” in operation and corruption, which have severely undermined public trust and generates legitimization pressure. In addition, they have also faced political pressure to transform. The case studies find that two typical strategies are adopted by charitable GONGOs to pursue organizational autonomy. One strategy is to initiate a “de-bureaucratization” reform to transform from semi-governmental organizations to true NGOs, while the other is to pursue symbolic independence without a substantial shift of their close relationship to the government. In addition, institutional entrepreneurs holding a positive attitude towards their autonomy played a pivotal role on the different strategic choices, and the feedback effect reinforced the choices made at critical junctures. Given that only a few charitable GONGOs have changed into autonomous NGOs to date, it is still too early to say that a civil society is taking shape in top-down manner. Nevertheless, we should not overlook that there is increasingly visible tension between the publics’ expectation and the inert political system. If the reformist elites and leaders of the party-state reach a consensus on the relations between the government and social organizations, the future of civil society in China will become a little brighter.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectNon-governmental organizations - China.
Dept/ProgramPolitics and Public Administration

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.advisorLee, EWY-
dc.contributor.authorLuo, Wenen.-
dc.contributor.author罗文恩.-
dc.date.issued2011-
dc.identifier.citationLuo, W. [罗文恩]. (2011). From dependence to autonomy? : institutional change and the evolution of charitable GONGOs in China. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b4833002-
dc.description.abstractWith the rapid expansion of the state- led philanthropy sector over the past decade, charitable GONGOs have become salient players in China’s third sector. These organizations have acted as “transmission belts” between the state and society by placing government demands in the first priority and posed no challenges to the political hierarchy. However, several events occurring after the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake implied that charitable GONGOs began to secure an independent identity in pursuit of their own interests. I argue that traditional analytical frameworks to address state-society relations in China, namely civil society and corporatist approach, cannot fully explain this new phenomenon. Thus I propose a two- level institutional change model to explore why and how charitable GONGOs began to pursue an independent identity. At the societal level, three institutional sources are identified which are driving charitable GONGOs to detach themselves from the government: functional, legitimization and political pressure. At the organizational level, I argue that charitable GONGOs will adopt divergent strategies to pursue autonomy, and propose three interrelated propositions to explain their choices. The research methods used in this thesis include macro-historical analysis and the case study. In regard to the former, I review the laws, regulations, policies, past significant events and statistical data related to the philanthropy sector to explore how the change of general social context exerts impact on charitable GONGOs. I then use the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation and China Charity Federation as cases to analyze why and how charitable GONGOs have devised divergent strategies to secure organizational autonomy. This study discloses that with the notable change in the economic, social and political environment; charitable GONGOs are encountering three institutional pressures to separate themselves from the government. First, functional pressure derived from the rise of new donors and private foundations. Second, the past malpractices of charitable GONGOs, including the administrative fundraising campaign, the “black box” in operation and corruption, which have severely undermined public trust and generates legitimization pressure. In addition, they have also faced political pressure to transform. The case studies find that two typical strategies are adopted by charitable GONGOs to pursue organizational autonomy. One strategy is to initiate a “de-bureaucratization” reform to transform from semi-governmental organizations to true NGOs, while the other is to pursue symbolic independence without a substantial shift of their close relationship to the government. In addition, institutional entrepreneurs holding a positive attitude towards their autonomy played a pivotal role on the different strategic choices, and the feedback effect reinforced the choices made at critical junctures. Given that only a few charitable GONGOs have changed into autonomous NGOs to date, it is still too early to say that a civil society is taking shape in top-down manner. Nevertheless, we should not overlook that there is increasingly visible tension between the publics’ expectation and the inert political system. If the reformist elites and leaders of the party-state reach a consensus on the relations between the government and social organizations, the future of civil society in China will become a little brighter.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.source.urihttp://hub.hku.hk/bib/B48330024-
dc.subject.lcshNon-governmental organizations - China.-
dc.titleFrom dependence to autonomy?: institutional change and the evolution of charitable GONGOs in China-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb4833002-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplinePolitics and Public Administration-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.identifier.doi10.5353/th_b4833002-
dc.date.hkucongregation2012-

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