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Innovators and Implementers: The Multilevel Politics of Civil Society Governance in Rural China

  • Sara A. Newland (a1)

Early literature on China's civil society focused on organizations’ autonomy from the state. However, the precise ways in which these organizations are dependent on the state – and on individual officials – are less well understood. I argue that NGOs depend on different types of officials whose career incentives vary, with significant implications for relationships with non-state actors. One set of officials, innovators, seeks rapid promotion and uses civil society partnerships to gain higher-level attention. Innovators’ career goals lead them to provide support for NGOs; however, excessive reliance on innovators can force organizations to stray from their mission and can weaken their long-term position in a given locality. A second set of officials, implementers, seeks stability and security. Cognizant of the risks of partnering with non-state actors, these officials are sometimes forced by their superiors to engage with NGOs but see little personal benefit in doing so. These findings suggest the importance of China's multilevel political structure for state–society relations.

中国公民社会的研究常聚焦于社会组织相对于政府的自主性, 然而, 组织依靠政府与个别干部的具体方式还有待进一步釐清。本研究指出, 干部个人的工作升迁诱因在非政府组织和政府的关系中扮演重要角色。所谓的革新者为寻求快速升迁而选择与公民社会合作以得到上级政府的关注。为了达到个人的工作目标, 革新者支持非政府组织。但是过度依赖革新者的组织也面临一些问题: 它们常因此偏离组织使命而不利在当地的长期发展。另一种干部算是执行者。执行者比较重视稳定和安全。虽然上级有时候会勉强他们与非政府组织合作, 但是执行者清楚这种伙伴关系的风险, 而认为这种合作没有个人的利益。这些结论凸显了中国多层次政府架构对于国家–社会关系的重要性。

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