In recent years, the Chinese government has increasingly adopted the term “social organizations” (社会团体) when referring to NGOs.

In its chapter, “The Development of NGOs in China: A Case Study on their Involvement with Climate Change”, the author Zhixiong Huang tried to dissect the development as well as the current role of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in China. In a democratic dictatorship like the People’s Republic of China, the general definition and function of a given NGO would differ in a way or another from their Western counter-parts. This is partially due to the special relation that an NGO would have with the Chinese government and the competences that would be able to acquire without constituting a threat to the Chinese state. In fact, in the Western world, the civil society is one of the most vibrant sector where plenty of professionals, experts, and citizens in general that are looking for the achievement of the common good are involved with sometimes even the financial support of the state itself. Actually, the main current international NGOs that are having huge influence in terms of bridging the gap between the weak institutions of developing and Least Developing Countries (LDCs) were created in the West. NGOs like Green Peace, the Red Cross, Amnesty International and so on have currently huge influence on international affairs and global development and are even used as legitimate sources for governmental policies in many places. These NGOs are operating in every international development field that one could think of ranging from environmental matters and climate change, to human rights and international armed conflicts and many other areas. In the Chinese context, the NGOs had to wait until the development in the early 1980s of the open door policy and the shift to a socialist market economy in the 1990s before starting to have actual role and influence in practice. As a matter of fact, in the beginning and even up until recent days, these organizations were not called as NGOs but rather were labeled as social groups or civil organization as the term NGOs sounded like it was anti-state. However, currently, the NGOs in China have a great role to play in the society. Moreover, the state acknowledged the presence of these NGOs and their work in many fields in particular in the environmental and relief areas. The State since the 1990s have realized that it is impossible to deal with every issue in the society and started leaving vacuums in many fields that were gradually filled with the establishment of new NGOs in the country. Nevertheless, all the NGOs currently operating in China are under the supervision of the government in the sense that a given NGO has to respect the guidelines and the rules drafted and adopted by the state. As such, all the NGOs have to formulate policies that are in line with the government’s internal strategies. Thus, these organizations have learned quickly the rules of the game but also how to sometimes be able to compromise on particular issues. In that sense, the relation between Chinese NGOs and the government is quite complex.