Chapter 3: Transnational activism and Chinese civil society: democratizing impacts
The government’s restrictive policies towards civil society does not detract from Chinese NGOs’ roles in opening up the political field and expanding civil society over the years in a dynamitic interaction with the state, as well as constituting an effective force in tackling specific issues in their campaigns. This chapter explores the democratic impacts of transnational activism through its engagement with Chinese NGOs. It first systematically elucidates TCS’ multidimensional contributions to the rise and growth of Chinese civil society. Second, it examines INGOs’ facilitation of their Chinese partners’ roles in fostering political pluralism. Using the literature’s discussions of Chinese NGOs’ democratic functions as benchmarks, the chapter will ascertain in what ways those functions have been reinforced, amplified or brought about by TCS’ relations with, and its influence upon, the Chinese NGOs. Finally, the chapter critically dwells on the problems and challenges in transnational interactions, and presents what arguably seems to be an overall upward trend in the development trajectory of civil society in general, and transnational activism in particular, in China despite cases of crackdown and reversal in recent years. There are multiple driving forces for the emergence and development of NGOs in China, such as the increasing breadth and depth of sociopolitical and environmental conflicts and the new political opportunities created by the reforming party-state as discussed in Chapter 2. The debate about implications of transnational connections for Chinese civil society, however, took place relatively late, most likely because such connections started to become more evident in this century.
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