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An Institutional Approach to Chinese NGOs: State Alliance versus State Avoidance Resource Strategies*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2015

Carolyn L. Hsu*
Colgate University.
Yuzhou Jiang
Colgate University.
Email: (corresponding author).


This article uses an institutional approach to examine Chinese NGOs as an emerging organizational field. In mature organizational fields, the organizations are powerfully constrained to follow the institutional practices of that field. However, in an emerging organizational field, the institutionalized constraints are not yet established, so actors can try out a wide range of practices. Some of these practices will become the new “rules of the game” of the organizational field when it is established. The content of these rules will shape the relationship between NGOs and the Chinese party-state for future generations. We find that a Chinese NGO's resource strategy is shaped by two interacting factors. First, NGOs operate in an evolving ecology of opportunity. Second, the social entrepreneurs who lead Chinese NGOs perceive that ecology of opportunity through the lens of their personal experiences, beliefs and expertise. As a result, the initial strategies of the organizations in our sample were strongly influenced by the institutional experience of their founders. Former state bureaucrats built NGOs around alliances with party-state agencies. In contrast, NGO founders that had no party-state experience usually avoided the state and sought areas away from government control/attention, such as the internet or private business.


这篇论文为研究中国的非政府组织 (NGO) 提供了一个组织性的研究方法。组织上的需求促动 NGO 的策略与行为。随着一些 NGO 成功与失败, 某些策略会变得更受欢迎并被社会期待。这些做法会被制度化成为这个新组织领域的游戏规则。这些做法的内容会决定中国 NGO 与政府的关系。 本文通过探究资源策略提供了一例组织性的研究方法。作为组织, NGO为了生存必须保证拥有足够的资源流动。我们发现当制度模板缺失时, 一个 NGO 的资源策略常常取决于其创始人与领导者的机构经历。由前政府官员创立的 NGO 依靠与党政机关的合作伙伴关系。而没有公务工作经验的 NGO 创始人则强调了与政府的独立并寻求不受国家控制的渠道, 例如网络。

Copyright © The China Quarterly 2015 

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The authors would like to express their gratitude to the Spencer Foundation and to the Colgate University Research Council for supporting this research. We would also like to thank Mary Charest for editing and comments.


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