Social Governance vs. Social Management: Towards a New Regulatory Role for Social Organizations in China?

Authors: Simona Novaretti


On November 12, 2013 the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the People’s Republic of
China approved the “Decision of the CCCP on Some Major Issues Concerning Comprehensively
Deepening the Reform”. The document – the first major policy statement of President Xi Jinping’s
new administration – was well received for its calls for greater liberalization of the economy and
a greater governance role for the market, private sector, and non-state players, including social
organizations. The most important signal of this new (and more positive) attitude towards NGOs seemed to be a lexical one: since then, the expression “shehui guanli” (社会管理,social management)
has been replaced in official discourse by “shehui zhili” (社会治理, social governance) a notion that recognizes social players’ role in governance, alongside government and businesses.
Concretely, what has this change meant for NGOs and their participation in the regulatory process?
And how have the role and responsibility of government(s) and social organizations been clarified and enforced at the central and local levels?
In this paper, I will analyze the impact of this new way of understanding the relationship between State and Society with regard to social organizations, considering the ways in which the relationship between state and non-state actors has been shaped in the past few years. I will concentrate especially on the experiments that have been going on at the local level, and on the rise (and decline?) of NGOs’ potential influence on the regulatory process through legal actions, through “public interest litigation”.

Keywords: Chinese Law – Social Organizations – Regulatory Governance – Environmental Public Interest Litigation