Limited attention has been paid to market actors’ interventions and their consequences in regard to shaping NGOs’ behaviors in China. Drawing on a case study of a national disability organization’s participation in China’s largest internet fundraising campaign—the Tencent Charity Day—this paper examines how market actors constitute the institutional contexts that shape and restructure NGOs’ framing and practice. I argue that market actors transform the institutional environments of NGOs by transplanting social media platforms’ institutional logic concerning the attention economy to incubate NGOs’ charitable marketing practices. The consequences of this transformation are the re-coalitions of actors, as well as the rise of charitable framing and the market methods of charitable programming. Meanwhile, market interventions unintendedly open spaces for grassroots NGOs to pursue their social missions and re-envision rights and advocacy under transformed state–civil society relationships, even though this process is highly uneven and hierarchical.
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Chinese NGOs have witnessed significant changes in their resource environment as the result of the civil society restructuring initiatives of the party-state, as well as the rise of private philanthropy. State–NGO relations have been significantly realigned under the Xi Jinping administration, which has restructured the NGO sector by penalizing NGOs’ contentious participation and incorporating unregistered NGOs through the opening of institutional channels of participation. Central to these initiatives is the Law on Administration of Activities of Overseas Non-governmental Organizations in the Mainland of China (Foreign NGO Law) that came into force in 2017. The law not only stipulates that foreign NGOs must seek double registrations from the Public Security department and supervisory organizations, but also forbids domestic NGOs from receiving funding from unregistered foreign NGOs. Under this “new normal” (“新常态”), grassroots NGOs must make strategic changes by cutting off funding from abroad and curtailing their contentious participation to seek legitimacy domestically.
© 2022, International Society for Third-Sector Research.
- China NGO
- Internet fundraising platform
- Market interventions
- New institutionalism