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Interesting times for civil society in China

Howard Lake | 6 June 2008 | Blogs

The past few years have seen the Chinese government slowly relaxing its controls on social enterprise and voluntary action. Most commentators expect the recent tragic earthquake in Sichuan to accelerate this process.
The disaster spurred a huge out-pouring of generosity from citizens in China and many thousands of people travelled to the eartquake zone to volunteer their help. Senior Chinese business figures have given milions of dollars, and a range of companies have provided in kind assistance. The Chinese Red Cross has raised more than Yuan 3 bn (£200 m) –
Neighbouring countries have also mobilised support. Taiwan has been especially generous and quick to respond and while I was in Malaysia recently fundraising appeals for the earthquake were attracting lots of support.
With 5 million homeless the, 100,000 physically disabled, and people traumatised by the events, the government needs all the help it can get to aid the recovery process. People in the non-profit sector expect social enterprise and voluntary action to play a significant role and are finding government officials receptive to their ideas. But Chinese NGOs need training and technical support and international experts have a role to play here.
This is an interesting time in the development of China’s burgeoning civil society. Definitely something to watch.