WISERD publishes new research on civil society, welfare and governance in China


Over the past three years, WISERD has been part of a successful international Newton Advanced Fellowship scheme with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and funded by the British Academy.

This has been led by Professor Sin Yi Cheung (School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University), Dr Xiao Lin (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Beijing), Professor Paul Chaney (Co-Director of WISERD, Cardiff University), Professor Ralph Fevre (WISERD, Cardiff University), and Professor Susan Baker (Director of the Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University).

Our new, open access publication provides detailed and original insights into the changing nature of civil society and welfare provision in the evolving governance structures of today’s China. It includes the following research articles by leading CASS scholars:

‘Reconciling the People’s Will with Central Government’s Plan: Exploring the pursuit of local governance in today’s China’ by Liu Yiran. In the wake of 18th and 19th Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee reforms on ‘social governance’, this study explores subsequent developments in Chinese local governance. This is an appropriate focus because earlier research has largely tended to overlook the challenges facing local government in balancing the requirements of upper level national government with the needs and will of society. Based on a case study of Xicheng District, Beijing, inter alia, this research finds that the pursuit of local governance is not exclusively reliant on central government’s ‘grand’ plan, but the mediating role of local government officials.

‘State-made Society? Exploring the “creation of society” and the provision of public services at the community level in contemporary China’ by Shi Yuntong. This article explains how bolstering residents’ self-organization in urban communities is considered a promising path for the creation associative life in China; a setting where, hitherto, some researchers believed that “society” did not exist. However, in recent years, supply-side reforms carried out by local government, (notably in provisions of public service in urban communities), seems to have opened up a new, if hitherto neglected, path. Analysing the concept, motivations, tactics and effects of “state-made society”, this article points out that although enhancing associative life is an unintended consequence, it has resulted in the mutual empowerment of both state and society.

‘Structural Differentiation: Social organizations in contemporary Chinese community governance’ by Xiang Jinglin. Against the backdrop of the contrast between the rapid development of social organizations (SOs) and the limited effect of their participation in community governance, this timely paper discusses the relationship between social organizations and community governance. It focuses on the problem of matching supply and demand with respect to social organizations and community governance; and analyses the key factors responsible for this inadequate matching as well as possible solutions.

‘Pushing the Boundaries: Exploring the action space of an NGO in the context of devolution in urban China’ by Liang Chen. This article examines how, in recent years, governance reforms in China have resulted in significant changes in the role of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). To provide further insight into this shift, this insightful article presents a case study of a social organization in a city in Southern Jiangsu. It reveals how emerging forms of new governance have expanded NGOs’ space for action and given them increased autonomy in the prevailing institutional environment. Overall, the findings show how, in a government-dominated institutional environment, devolution of power has certain positive impacts on the development of NGOs.


Download full publication:

New Perspectives on Welfare and Governance in Contemporary China


In addition, a further new Chinese language publication from the project is ‘Social Policy and Local Governance: Developments in Europe and China’ (pp.440) (社会政策与地方治理:欧洲和中国的经验). Published by Social Science Academic Press, Beijing (2019). Individual chapters by Chaney, Cheung, Fevre, Baker, and other Cardiff and CASS colleagues can be downloaded free-of-change here.

WISERD’s civil society research in China will continue with a new, forthcoming ESRC-funded project led by Professor Paul Chaney – read more.

See other related news:

CASS visit fosters international research collaboration

Civil Society research presented to leading Chinese institutions

Chinese visiting international fellows at WISERD

Civil society, human rights and religious freedom in the People’s Republic of China: analysis of CSOs’ Universal Periodic Review discourse

Funding success for international collaborations