Early literature on China's civil society focused on organizations' autonomy from the state. However, the precise ways in which these organizations are dependent on the state - and on individual officials - are less well understood. I argue that NGOs depend on different types of officials whose career incentives vary, with significant implications for relationships with non-state actors. One set of officials, innovators, seeks rapid promotion and uses civil society partnerships to gain higher-level attention. Innovators' career goals lead them to provide support for NGOs; however, excessive reliance on innovators can force organizations to stray from their mission and can weaken their long-term position in a given locality. A second set of officials, implementers, seeks stability and security. Cognizant of the risks of partnering with non-state actors, these officials are sometimes forced by their superiors to engage with NGOs but see little personal benefit in doing so. These findings suggest the importance of China's multilevel political structure for state-society relations.
cadre management, civil society, multilevel politics, NGOs, public services, rural China
© SOAS University of London, 2018
Newland, Sara A., "Innovators and Implementers: The Multilevel Politics of Civil Society Governance in Rural China" (2018). Government: Faculty Publications, Smith College, Northampton, MA.