Transnational Civil Society in China

Transnational Civil Society in China

Intrusion and Impact

Chen Jie

This book discusses the penetration, growth and operation of transnational civil society (TCS) in China. It explores TCS’ impacts on the incremental development of China’s political pluralism, mainly through exploring the influences of the leading TCS actors on the country’s bottom-up and self-governing activist NGOs that have sprung up spontaneously, in terms of capacities, strategies, leadership and political outlook, as a result of complex interactions between the two sectors.

Chapter 4: Transnational civil society and China: broader and comparative perspectives

Chen Jie

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, politics and public policy, human rights, international politics


This chapter further expands the discussion of transnational civil society and China by bringing in transnational campaigns targeting China on human rights and democracy, and comparing the case of China with the transnational politics of Taiwan and Eastern Europe before the major political transformation in those regions in the late 1980s. The former endeavor seeks to make the discussion of China’s transnational relations more inclusive, and the latter aims to more precisely position China in the historical spectrum of transnational politics, casting light on the prospects and limitations of the situation in China from a comparative perspective. The main actors in the transnational campaigns on human rights and democracy are Chinese dissident organizations overseas and INGOs deemed by Beijing as working on ‘political’ issues such as AI, HRW, and Reporters without Borders. To include the Chinese political exiles seems problematic conceptually. The fact that they are not physically based in China does not immediately justify them being classified unequivocally as transnational actors, following the definition given in the Introduction. As He Baogang argues, overseas dissident organizations have not played a role in shaping international laws; they are less concerned with global issues and more concerned with Chinese national issues; the Chinese nationalism of political exiles is strong; and the memberships of the leading dissident organizations are almost exclusively mainland Chinese, with the exception being Human Rights in China (HRIC).1 In other words, the extent of their ‘global citizenship’ is as strong – or weak – as the organizations in Chinese domestic civil society.

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