Beijing. - A few months ago Chinese NGOs were responding to the devastating earthquake that had just struck Nepal, confirming their status as "overseas NGOs". According to China Development Brief (CDB), a chinese media and communication NGO this represents a significant milestone for the growth of China’s civil society and for the development of a truly global civil society. CDB produced a special issue on Chinese NGOs working overseas. It features several articles on the challenges and prospects of Chinese civil societies' engagement abroad and gives insights into Chinese soft power politics.
Chinese overseas aid is increasing at a slow but steady rate but remains state-directed and reliant on top-down material aid and infrastructure projects that can be very effective but cannot tackle all issues.
For a long time the Chinese NGO sector has largely not participated in this global expansion. However, over the past decade the sector has become more professional, better resourced, and more mainstream, although challenges remain, outlines Tom Bannister from China Development Brief.
In the future Chinese NGOs have the potential to play a more prominent role on the world stage. This is considered to be a significant step for the development of both the domestic NGO sector and global civil society. Chinese NGOs "going out" can act as a catalyst for growth, channelling new resources, partnerships, legitimacy, opportunities, and confidence into Chinese civil society, analyses CDB. It can also increase "people-to-people" contact, the often stated aim of many a foreign policy and international development goal.
Yet, there are challenges to overcome. Most Chinese NGOs e.g. lack the resources available to the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) or the One Foundation. They lack organizational capacity, face significant funding issues, and have a shortage of qualified staff with foreign language skills and overseas experience. A major issue that impacts funding is public support. For fundraising organizations, questions still remain over how comfortable the Chinese public is with contributing funds for projects that are not related to a disaster.
=> More information: CDB Special Issue on Chinese NGOs Going Out