Skip to main content

Let Many Civil Societies Bloom: The Rise of Consultative Authoritarianism in China

  • Jessica C. Teets (a1)

In this article, I analyse civil society development in China using examples from Beijing to demonstrate the causal role of local officials' ideas about these groups during the last 20 years. I argue that the decentralization of public welfare and the linkage of promotion to the delivery of these goods supported the idea of local government–civil society collaboration. This idea was undermined by international examples of civil society opposing authoritarianism and the strength of the state-led development model after the 2008 economic crisis. I find growing convergence on a new model of state–society relationship that I call “consultative authoritarianism,” which encourages the simultaneous expansion of a fairly autonomous civil society and the development of more indirect tools of state control. This model challenges the conventional wisdom that an operationally autonomous civil society cannot exist inside authoritarian regimes and that the presence of civil society is an indicator of democratization.

Hide All
Blyth, Mark. 1997. “Any more bright ideas? The ideational turn of comparative political economy.” Comparative Politics 29(1), 229250.
Bo, Zhiyue, and Chen, Gang. 2009. “Global financial crisis and the voice of the New Left in China.” East Asian Institute Background Brief 443.
Cai, Hongbin, and Treisman, Daniel. 2002. “State corroding federalism.” Journal of Public Economics 88, 819843.
Chamberlain, Heath. 1993. “On the search for civil society in China.” Modern China 19, 199215.
Chan, Anita, and Unger, Jonathan. 1995. “China, corporatism, and the East Asian model.” The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs 33, 2953
Chen, Qiao. 2011. “Minzheng bu: gongyi cishan lei di san lei shehui zuzhi you wang zhijie dengji” (Ministry of civil affairs: sees potential for three types of social organizations to register directly). Beijing shibao. 24 May.
China Daily. 2010. “Beijing's population exceeds 22 million.” 26 February.
Diamond, Larry. 1994. “Rethinking civil society: toward democratic consolidation.” Journal of Democracy 5, 418.
Foster, Kenneth. 2001. “Associations in the embrace of an authoritarian state: state domination of society?Studies in Comparative International Development 35: 84109.
Ford, Peter. 2009. “China's ant tribe: millions of unemployed college grads.” The Christian Science Monitor, 21 December.
Frazier, Mark W. 2010. Socialist Insecurity: Pensions and the Politics of Uneven Development in China. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Geisselmann, Joern and Warmer, Christine. 2009. “Public participation in China's municipal affairs.” D + C Development and Cooperation Tribune 294296.
Han, Heng, and Xiaoguang, Kang. 2005. “Fenlei kongzhi: dangqian Zhongguo dalu guojia yu shehui guanxi yanjiu” (“Differentiated control: current state and society relationship research in mainland China”). Shehuixui yanjiu 6.
Ho, Peter. 2001. “Greening without conflict? Environmentalism, NGOs and civil society in China.” Development and Change 32, 893921.
Howell, Jude. 1995. “Prospects for NGOs in China.” Development in Practice 5(1), 12.
Howell, Jude. 2004. “New directions in civil society: organizing around marginalized interests.” In Howell, Jude, ed. Governance in China. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 143171.
Howell, Jude and Pearce, Jenny. 2002. Civil Society and Development: a Critical Exploration. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.
HsiaRenee Yuen-Jan, and Lynn Renee Yuen-Jan, and LynnWhite III, T.. 2002. “Working amid corporatism and confusion: foreign NGOs in China.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 31, 329.
Huang, Yasheng. 2011. “Rethinking the Beijing consensus,” Asia Policy 11, 126.
Jacobs, Andrew. 2011. “Chinese security officials respond to call for protests.” New York Times, 21 February.
Jing, Yijia, and Savas, E.S.. 2009. “Managing collaborative service delivery: comparing China and the United States.” Public Administration Review 69 (supplement) 101–07.
Landry, Pierre. 2003. “The political management of mayors in post-Deng China.” The Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies 17, 3158.
Le, Zou. 2011. “NGO registration rules to be relaxed nationwide: civil affairs minister.” Global Times, 25 May.
Lee, Colleen. 2010. “Special political zones,” The Standard, 7 September.
Li, David D. 2006. “Large domestic non-intermediated investments and government liabilities: challenges facing China's financial sector reform.” World Bank working paper.
Li, He. 2010. “Debating China's economic reform: new Leftists vs. liberals.” Journal of Chinese Political Science 15, 123.
Lian, Yuming. 2010. “Shehui zuzhi de ruoshi diwei jidai gaibian” (“The weak position of social organizations must be changed”). Beijing Ribao. 20 September.
Lu, Yiyi. 2007. “The autonomy of Chinese NGOs: a new perspective.” China: an International Journal 5, 173203.
Ma, Qiusha. 2002. “The governance of NGOs in China since 1978: how much autonomy?Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 31, 305330.
Mathews, Jessica. 1997. “Power shift: the rise of global civil society.” Foreign Affairs 76, January/February.
Mertha, Andrew. 2009. “‘Fragmented authoritarianism 2.0’: political pluralization in the Chinese policy process.” The China Quarterly 200, 9951012.
Mishra, Pankaj. 2006. “China's New Leftist.” The New York Times Magazine, 15 October.
Nathan, Andrew. 2003. “Authoritarian resilience.” Journal of Democracy 14 (1), 617.
New York Times. 2010. “Freedom and Human Rights in China.” 1 March.
Oi, Jean. 1992. “Fiscal reform and the economic foundations of local state corporatism in China.” World Politics 45, 99126.
Park, Albert, Rozelle, Scott, Wong, Christine and Ren, Changqing. 1996. “Distributional consequences of reforming local public finance in China.” The China Quarterly 147, 751778.
Qian, Yingyi, and Weingast, Barry. 1996. “China's transition to markets: market-preserving federalism, Chinese style.” Journal of Economic Policy Reform 1, 149185.
Saich, Tony. 2000. “Negotiating the state: the development of social organizations in China.” The China Quarterly 161, 124141.
Saich, Tony. 2007. “Citizens' perceptions of governance in rural and urban China.” Journal of Chinese Political Science 12, 128.
Salamon, Lester. 1994. “The rise of the nonprofit sector.” Foreign Affairs July/August.
Salamon, Lester, and Anheier, Helmut K.. 1996. The Emerging Not-For-Profit Sector: An Overview. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press.
Sanyal, Bishwapriya. 1994. “Cooperative Autonomy: The Dialectic of State-NGOs Relationship in Developing Countries.” International Institute for Labour Studies.
Simon, Karla. 2009. “Regulation of civil society in China: necessary changes after the Olympic Games and the Sichuan earthquake.” Fordham International Law Journal 32 (3).
Tanner, Murray Scot. 2004. “China rethinks unrest.” The Washington Quarterly 27, 137156.
TASS. 2005. “Putin, Hu Jintao to say monopoly in international affairs inadmissible.” 28 June.
Wang, Hui. 2001. “Contemporary Chinese thought and the question of modernity.” In Zhang, Xudong (ed.) Whither China? Intellectual Politics in Contemporary China. Durham NC: Duke University Press, 161197.
Wang, Jisi. 2011. “China's search for a grand strategy subtitle: a rising great power finds its way.” Foreign Affairs March/April.
Wang, Shaoguang. 2006. “Money and autonomy: patterns of civil society finance and their implications.” Studies in Comparative International Development 40 (4): 329.
Wang, Shaoguang, and He, Jianyu. 2004. “Associational revolution in China: mapping the landscapes.” Korea Observer 35 (3), 485532.
Wang, Sibin. 2011. “Social service innovation and embedded growth of civil society.” Paper presented at the Civil Society and Harmonious Society conference, Beijing, China, June 2011.
Whiting, Susan. 2001. Power and Wealth in Rural China: The Political Economy of Institutional Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wong, Christine. 2007. “Budget reform in China.” OECD Journal on Budgeting 7(1), 3356.
Xiong, Wei, and Meng, Qin. 2008. “Lun Zhongguo NGO bentu nengli de kunjing he chulu” (An analysis of Chinese NGO's weak capacity and solution to this predicament.” Zhongguo sixiang wang,, accessed 17 June 2008.
Yang, Dali. 2004. Remaking the Chinese Leviathan. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Yin, Deyong. 2009. “China's attitude toward foreign NGOs.” Washington University Global Studies Law Review 8 (3).
Young, Nick and Qian, Tina. 2006. “Listening to the community is the main ingredient in Chinese NGO recipe for city governments.” China Development Brief, 2 March.
Zhou, Benshun. 2011. “Zou Zhongguo tese shehui guanli chuangxin zhi lu” (“Social management of innovation with Chinese characteristics”) Qiushi 10.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

The China Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0305-7410
  • EISSN: 1468-2648
  • URL: /core/journals/china-quarterly
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 80
Total number of PDF views: 1213 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 2581 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 20th July 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.