This article originally appeared on ChinaFile’s The China NGO Project
For the sake of clarity, we have used the names of the highest-level entity in each functional hierarchy (for example, the Ministry of Justice). Technically speaking, there are no “ministries” at the provincial level, but rather bureaus or departments.
As of June 16, more than six months after the Foreign NGO Law went into effect, 84 foreign NGOs have successfully registered 97 representative offices. Thirty-eight unique Chinese government entities at either the national or provincial level have agreed to serve as the Professional Supervisory Unit (PSU) for one or more of these NGOs.
At the same time, however, a majority of the government entities eligible to sponsor foreign NGOs have not yet done so. This may be due to slow internal bureaucratic processes, reticence to take on the risk of sponsoring a foreign NGO, or simply a lack of international organizations seeking their sponsorship. Yet, in any case, despite their inclusion on the Ministry of Public Security’s 2017 list of eligible PSUs, a large number of government entities have yet to sponsor any foreign NGOs. Of the 47 unique national-level entities listed on the 2017 PSU list, only seven are serving as PSUs for one or more foreign NGOs.
The 2017 PSU list also specifies that provincial-level entities subordinate to the national-level ones (for example, the Shaanxi Department of Education, which is under the Ministry of Education) may sponsor foreign NGOs. Looking at the 2017 PSU list in terms of these functional hierarchies, the number of eligible provincial- and national-level government entities that are sponsoring foreign NGOs is still quite low. Of the 47 government xitong or functional hierarchies (the central-to-local government structures that often include a ministry and its subordinate governments units at the provincial and local levels) included on the 2017 PSU list, only 11 are currently sponsoring foreign NGOs.
Which functional hierarchies are not yet sponsoring foreign NGOs at either the national or provincial level? Environmental Protection is conspicuously absent, especially given that a number of foreign NGOs engaged in environment-related work have successfully registered. For these organizations, such as Conservation International and the Energy Foundation, the National Development and Reform Commission and the State Forestry Administration (or its local counterparts) are serving as PSUs. Also missing are the Culture and Cultural Heritage functional hierarchies, which is mildly surprising since cultural preservation and related work is unlikely to be considered contentious—though it is possible that there are not many foreign NGOs engaged in such work in China. The Justice functional hierarchy has also thus far not sponsored any foreign NGOs, despite what appears anecdotally to be a relatively high level of foreign NGO engagement in legal training and exchange.
A full list of the functional hierarchies which are and are not sponsoring foreign NGOs appears below. The graphic differentiates between those entities at the national level and those at the provincial level to give a clearer picture of how various functional hierarchies are responding to the new Law.
For further information about the PSUs that are sponsoring foreign NGOs, The China NGO Project maintains a list here, and we have previously reported on the two PSUs that agreed to sponsor at least one foreign NGO despite not being included on the 2017 PSU list.
Table 1. Number of Foreign NGOs Sponsored at the National and Provincial Level by Chinese Government Functional Hierarchies