Amateurism and Our Common Concern for Biodiversity

Treating the environment as a common resource often implies not only local, but also supra-local, even global, collectives of concerned stakeholders. While engaging with local actors, these stakeholders frequently insist on the need for a ‘professional’ approach. Examining an international project aimed at introducing biologically diverse agroforestry in a county in southwest China, this essay describes a more ‘amateur’ approach adopted by one international organisation. It argues that this amateurism demonstrates that, even within global professional organisations, there is an appetite for a new, more spontaneous, approach that values local knowledge and practices.

Making Class and Place in Contemporary China

Rural-to-urban migrants in China are often depicted as being poor, uncivilised, and having a lower level of ‘human quality’ than those with urban household registration. Policy-makers carefully strategise in order to produce rural-to-urban migrants as a homogeneous category. However, the use of this term obscures more than it illuminates, as it homogenises complex social realities.

From Village to City: An Interview with Andrew Kipnis

Andrew Kipnis’ new book, From Village to City: Social Transformation in Chinese County Seat (University of California Press, 2016), paints an extraordinary portrait of Zouping, a county in Shandong province, challenging our current understandings of modernity and putting forward a new theory of urbanisation. We spoke with the author.

Losing the World: After the Moose Have Gone Away

Sometimes the plans to improve people’s lives end up destroying them. When the Chinese government moved the nomadic Evenki people from the forests into urban settlements and confiscated their hunting rifles, they took away their livelihood. Gu Tao’s film The Last Moose of Aoluguya documents how people survive, or slowly destroy themselves, after the catastrophe of losing their world.

Burmese Civil Society Challenges China’s Development Assistance in Myanmar

China and Myanmar have been economic partners and allies for a long time. But this partnership is now being challenged by Myanmar’s democratisation process. Although nascent, Burmese civil society has shown it is ready to actively contest the legitimacy of China’s various development and commercial interests in this new democracy.

Meet the State Security: Chinese Labour Activists and Their Controllers

Chinese labour NGOs have to deal with several state bodies. Still, given their reliance on foreign funding and the political sensitivity of labour issues in China, the agency they have the most dealings with is probably State Security, a secretive branch of the public security apparatus charged with protecting the country from domestic political threats. How do labour activists manage to navigate this challenging terrain?

The Rise of Foundations: Hope for Grassroots Civil Society in China?

Over the past decade, the not-for-profit foundation sector has grown rapidly in China. This expansion has occurred as international foundations and organisations were withdrawing funding from Chinese grassroots NGOs, causing many civil society leaders to put their hopes into domestic foundations as a way to close their deficit of funding. But can the rise of foundations in China really replace the evaporating foreign grants for domestic NGOs?

China’s Social Organisations after the Charity Law

The passage of the Charity Law has made the legal environment for charities in China more complex. The new Law does represent an initial breakthrough in the transformation of the regulatory system for social organising. However, it does not equalise the rules for all Chinese non-profit organisations and, crucially, it does not provide a basic law applicable to all types of non-profit entities. Why does this matter?

Conceptual Confusion in the Research on Chinese Civil Society

Chinese civil society research is obsessed with finding non-governmental organisations. In this search, different types of civil society organisations are conflated, and non-governmentality becomes the sole factor that matters. Analytical accuracy is lost when too many things are fused under one term, especially when more accurate and nuanced terminology is available.

Collective Bargaining in China is Dead: The Situation is Excellent

As the Chinese government under Xi Jinping has turned in a markedly anti-worker direction, attempts to establish a genuine collective bargaining system in China have been smothered. If collective bargaining is dead, what might Chinese workers and their allies advocate? The time might be ripe to shift our focus to a demand for a rapid expansion of universal social services, not least for a universal basic income.

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