Translating CDB's New Report on China's Civil Society

Dear readers and supporters of CDB,

We want to thank everyone that came, helped and supported our State of Chinese Civil Society Forum and Public Advocacy Forum on March 26-27, 2012. We are happy to report that the two forums were a success. We had around 115 people attend the larger, bilingual Civil Society Forum, and another 60 people for the smaller Public Advocacy Forum which was conducted in Chinese only. Both went smoothly, our discussants and panelists did a fantastic job, a number of people bought our Chinese NGO Directory, and we did not run out of food! Most importantly, we heard very positive feedback from those who attended.

The morning session of the Civil Society Forum was moderated by Fu Tao, CDB's long-time former editor, who introduced CDB and its unique history as a newsletter started by Nick Young that later evolved into a quarterly Chinese NGO report and web platform on Chinese civil society in both Chinese and English. Fu Tao was followed by CDB's current editors who spoke about CDB's recent publications. Shawn Shieh, CDB's English-language editor, talked about the process of compiling CDB's new Chinese NGO Directory and shared our findings about the grassroots NGO landscape in China (click here to view the contents of the special report). Liu Haiying, CDB's current Chinese-language editor, then discussed CDB's Ten Year Review of Chinese Civil Society: A Selection of Writing from CDB (2001-2011), highlighting the important themes and issues that emerged.

These presentations were followed by a panel of discussants: Deng Guosheng of Tsinghua University, Lai Weijun of Sun Yatsen University, Guo Hong from the Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences and Julia Bentley from the Canadian Embassy. The discussants led a lively discussion on the value of CDB's publications and the future of grassroots NGOs in China. Some held out the possibility of a “spring” for grassroots NGOs, but others cautioned that much has remained unchanged in the political and social environment for NGOs.

The afternoon session consisted of two panel discussions, the first discussing cases of collaboration between Chinese organizations and grassroots NGOs ,and the second discussing cases of collaboration between international organizations and grassroots NGOs. Each panel discussion was followed by two discussants from grassroots NGOs: Rinchen Dawa of the Qinghai Tibetan Research Association, Gao Xiaoxian of the Shaanxi Research Association for Women and Family, Li Bo of Friends of Nature, and Yu Fangqiang of the Nanjing-based Justice for All.

The case studies presented by the panelists and the NGO discussants were studies in contrast. While the intention of the former was to remind us of the range of international and Chinese organizations now partnering with grassroots NGOs, the presentations of the latter reminded us of how far grassroots NGOs have to go before they can be accepted as full members of Chinese society.

Shawn Shieh closed the Forum by holding up NGO Directories produced over the last 14 years, noting that they all included a significant number of GONGOs, or government-organized NGOs. He then held up CDB’s new Chinese NGO Directory, noting it was the first to include only grassroots NGOs. The existence of a Directory that contained only the profiles of 251 grassroots NGOs was, by itself, a testament to how far grassroots NGOs have come. But he also recognized the challenges they face and expressed confidence, based on the impression made by grassroots NGO leaders at the Forum, that they would make even more progress over the next decade.

The Public Advocacy Forum on Wednesday shared the findings of CDB’s Special Report on The Diversification of Public Advocacy in China (View the Chinese-language PDF here-- English translation coming soon). It was a fascinating look into the state of public advocacy in China today, and how far it has come over the last few years. Guo Ting, CDB’s senior staff writer, gave a summary of the Special Report followed by a passionate appraisal by Liang Xiaoyan, a prominent social activist and one of the founders of the environmental NGO, Friends of Nature. The rest of the day featured 14 speakers who discussed different aspects, and case studies, of public advocacy being carried out in China, including legal advocacy, the use of social media, NGO advocacy networks, foundation advocacy, media advocacy, environmental advocacy, and advocacy through performance art.

Purchase the Chinese NGO Directory
To purchase a copy of our newly updated bilingual Chinese NGO Directory, please click here. If you're in Beijing, drop by our office to buy a copy and take home a piece of CDB history-- we are currently cleaning up our archives, and will be giving away old English-language issues of CDB from the past 10 years.