The Changing Contours of Civil Society in China: The Growth of Grassroots NGOs and Public Advocacy

July 18, 2013 // 2:00pm3:30pm
Event Co-sponsors: 
China Environment Forum
Global Sustainability and Resilience Program

The recent Chinese leadership transition is a useful opportunity to re-evaluate the current state of Chinese civil society. Commentators have long debated whether the space for civil society is growing or shrinking in China, or whether the concept of civil society is even relevant. According to many of those working in China’s civil society sector however, the picture is quite clear. The space is growing and the actors, and the forms their actions are assuming, are becoming increasingly diverse even as the political system remains authoritarian. Changes such as the rapid rise of private foundations, new forms of philanthropy, and the growing use of public advocacy are catalogued extensively in a series of China Development Brief publications released earlier this year. Together, these reports show an increasingly pluralistic and informed civil society acting to bring attention to, and help ameliorate, the many problems stemming from China’s rapid growth. Shawn Shieh is the English-language Editor of the China Development Brief and will be at the Wilson Center to discuss these exciting developments. We hope you can join us!

*Copies of the Chinese NGO Directory and Public Advocacy Report will be available for purchase at the talk.

5th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
Event Speakers List: 
  • China Development Brief Translation Project, International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, United Nations Development Program, and the Asian Development Bank
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    About China Development Brief

    CDB is China’s longest-running independent platform reporting on the civil society, social development and philanthropic sectors. It was started by Nick Young, a British journalist, in 1996 and during the late 1990s and early 2000s evolved into a Chinese NGO that began publishing its own Chinese-language reports.

    In 2008, CDB began publishing a regular quarterly first through the Economic Daily Press and later through the Intellectual Property Rights Press. In 2011, it started CDB(English) to translate its reporting into English so that the international community could better understand important trends occurring in China’s civil society, philanthropic sector.

    Aside from its quarterly, CDB has also published several Directories and Special Reports, including 250 NGOs in China (2001), 200 International NGOs in China (2005), NGO Advocacy in China (2006), New Trends in Philanthropy and Civil Society in China (Summer 2011), The Role and Challenges of International NGOs in China’s Development (2012), Chinese NGO Directory (2013) and The Diversification of Public Advocacy in China (2013). CDB’s Chinese-language website is, and its English-language website is


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