Chinese Social Organizations
Growth and Change during the
Reform Era
Social Org./ Civic Associations
• Why are they important?
– Their role in liberal democracies:
• interest aggregation
• interest articulation
• foster civic skills
• facilitate political participation
• …
Interest Articulation
• Every political system has some way for
people and social groups to express their
needs and demands to the government.
• Interest articulation can take many forms.
• In large, established political systems,
formal interest groups are a primary
means of promoting political interests.
Interest Groups
• Interest articulation can occur through the
actions of social or political groups that
represent a set of people.
• Some groups are poorly organized and
unfocused, and often short-lived.
• Other groups have a permanent
organizational base, often with
professional staffs to provide expertise.
Associational Groups
• A special subset of associational groups
consists of citizens who are united not by
a common economic or individual selfinterest but by a common belief in a
political ideology or a policy goal.
• The environmental movement, many
women's groups, and other civic groups
are examples of this kind of associations.
Civic Associations
• Civic associations represent another way
for citizens to articulate their policy goals
by supporting groups that advocate their
preferred policy positions.
• Such groups have proliferated in most
advanced industrial democracies in the
past generation, and they are now
spreading to the developing world.
Civil Society
• A society in which people are involved in
social and political interactions free of
state control or regulation.
• Participation in associational and
institutional groups can socialize
individuals into the political skills and
cooperative relations that are part of a
well-functioning society.
Controlled Interest Group Syst.
• There is a single group for each social
• Membership is often compulsory.
• Each group is normally hierarchically
• Groups are controlled by the government
or its agents in order to mobilize support
for government policy.
Controlled Interest Group Syst.
• Groups exist to facilitate government
control of society.
• In the traditional communist systems, the
party penetrates all levels of society and
controls all the permitted associational
• Unions and other interest associations are
subordinated to the Communist Party.
Interest Articulation in China
• Most ordinary citizens engage in interest
articulation without interest aggregation.
• This takes the form of personal contacts to
articulate individual concerns about the
effects of policies on their lives.
• Much of this interest articulation takes
place at the workplace.
Interest Aggregation
• For the most part, the function of interest
aggregation is monopolized by the
Communist Party
• The party's role in interest aggregation is
being diluted and the methods it employs
have also evolved.
During Cultural Revolution
• 1966-69, citizens were allowed to form
political organizations outside of the
Communist Party
• Characterized by political struggle,
disorder, and violence
"Satellite Parties"
• Under the formal leadership of the
Communist Party are eight "satellite
parties," a legacy of the communist pre1949 strategy of provisional cooperation
with noncommunist democratic parties.
• These parties have no real role in
policymaking, but they are represented in
the Chinese People's Political Consultative
Mass Organizations
• The other older formal organizations that
aggregate like interests in the Chinese
political system are the "mass
• They are extensions of the Communist
Party into society, nationwide in scope and
organized hierarchically.
Mass Organizations
• The All-China Federation of Trade Unions
and the Women's Federation remain
active and important mass organizations
• Mass organizations are led by Communist
Party officials, who are specially assigned
to these positions and who take direction
from party committees.
Mass Organizations
• The main function of these organizations
is not to aggregate and represent group
interests for consideration in the
policymaking process, but to facilitate
propagation of party policy to the relevant
• Essentially, mass organizations represent
the interests of the Communist Party to the
organized "interest groups" it dominates.
Mass Organizations
• The classic description of this relationship
refers to mass organizations as
“transmission belts” for the Communist
– bi-directional "transmission belts"?
• Mao Zedong’s “mass line”
– loyally carrying out Party lines and policies
– feed back information from the masses
Mass Organizations
• nearly 200 national mass organizations
are fully funded and staffed by the
• All-China Federation of Trade Unions
– 226 million members in 2009
– organized by work units
• All-China Women’s Federation
– organized by administrative or work units
Social Organizations since 1979
• NGOs and government-organized NGOs
Social Organizations
• A very different set of associations
emerged in the late 1980s with official
• These "social organizations" range widely
in form and focus.
• In form, they include genuine NGOs and
government-organized NGOs.
Government-Organized NGOs
• Among the most interesting GONGOs are
the business associations set up to
organize firms
– Self-Employed Laborers Association
– Private Enterprises Association
– Federation of Industry and Commerce
• The Federation of Industry and Commerce
organizes the largest Chinese firms.
• Among NGOs, the 250 organizations that
focus on environmental issues are at the
vanguard of NGO activity.
• The largest, best funded, and best
organized environmental NGOs focus
primarily on species and nature
conservation and environmental
Social Organizations
• Relationship with the state
civil society
Social Organizations