Changes in the China Charity Federation System

中文 English

This article is part of our special issue on New Trends in Philanthropy and Civil Society in China (Summer, 2011). It highlights the government’s heavy hand in the philanthropy sector through a case study of the China Charity Federation (CCF), one of the major players in Chinese philanthropy.

Like other major national-level “social organizations” in China, the CCF was established from the top down through the support and intervention of organs of the party-state. At the local level, the CCF is essentially part and parcel of the Civil Affairs bureaucracy. To make matters worse, the CCF enjoys greater fundraising privileges than public foundations, and yet the CCF is, legally speaking, not even a public foundation. Legally, the CCF is registered as a social organization (shehui tuanti), a type of nonprofit that is not allowed to engage in public fundraising. The result is a highly inequitable distribution of resources favoring GONGOs like the CCF, then public foundations, and last but not least, private foundations and NGOs.

The controversy over the privileges held by GONGOs, like the CCF, came to light after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake when scholars, like Tsinghua University professor Deng Guosheng, pointed out that the lion’s share of public donations for the earthquake relief went to the government and a handful of GONGOs. In 2008, total public donations broke the 100 billion RMB mark, an astonishing 300 percent increase from the previous year, as a result of 65 billion RMB in donations for the earthquake relief alone. To put that number into perspective, 65 billion was more than twice as much as all public donations for 2007. Of that 65 billion, about 56 percent went to party and government offices, mainly Civil Affairs, 21 percent went to the Chinese Red Cross, and 15 percent went to the CCF. In other words, nearly 90 percent of the public donations for the earthquake relief went to the government and two GONGOs. The remainder went to public foundations. NGOs were not allowed to publicly solicit donations for the earthquake relief ((China Charity Information Center, “Donation for 5.12 Earthquake Disaster Relief Sets Record”, China Philanthropy Times (中国公益时报), December 12, 2008.)).

This article discusses the need for reforms in the CCF, but recognizes that any reforms would also require the support of government agencies like Civil Affairs. As the article makes clear, there are sharp differences in opinion between scholars who believe that reforms are necessary to further separate government from the philanthropy sector, and government officials who believe the government needs to strengthen its management of philanthropy.

Deng Guosheng, associate professor at Tsinghua University’s NGO Research Center, was sharply critical of the philanthropy sector in remarks he made at an October 2009 salon hosted by the NGO Interactive Forum. [Editor’s Note: The NGO Interactive Forum, www.ingo.org.cn, was established by a major GONGO, the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA), to promote and support the NGO sector.   On the CFPA, see the article in this special issue, “The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation Internationalizes.”]

At the salon, Professor Deng argued that “the China Charity Federation (中华慈善总会,hereafter CCF) undermines the growth of the philanthropy sector in China.” He believes “the CCF’s autonomy and independence [from the government] is limited, particularly at the local levels. Many provincial-level CCFs are nothing more than a division of the Civil Affairs department. If this trend continues, the future does not look bright for Chinese philanthropy1.”

Professor Deng’s remarks, later published in the Report on Chinese Society (中国社会报),ignited intense debate among scholars, government officials, and those engaged in philanthropy work in China. The CCF has sought to keep a low profile and has yet to issue a formal public response. Although the CCF disclosed plans earlier this year to meet with the media, a press conference still had not happened by Chinese New Year, and several requests from this writer for an interview were ignored.

In raising the question, “Who has hindered the development of China’s charities?” the Report on Chinese Society provoked greater reflection on philanthropy in China.

The CCF was originally established in 1994. Since 1994, 270 organizations have joined the CCF to form a network of charitable organizations that spans the entire country. Although the CCF has promoted philanthropy in China for the last 15 years, it has also come under fire for the privileges and exclusive resources it has gained from its close ties with the government. The recent controversy surrounding the CCF reflects growing expectations for philanthropy [in China] and the fallout that results when those expectations are not met.

Historical Origins of Philanthropy in China

The CCF was established in a top-down fashion in the early 1990s, and set up a charity system that enjoyed some operational autonomy. Yet, this network of CCFs had also built up a relationship with the government, and so they were designated as “government-organized” rather than “popular” or “grassroots” organizations. The government’s influence was pronounced among local CCFs, even though the CCF was established under the condition of “not getting a penny from the government budget, not having an administrative staff, and not employing government officials2.”

In ancient times, philanthropy was traditionally associated with civil society. But China made a break with that tradition after 1949, when charity came to be associated with religion and superstition and was declared to be in conflict with socialist ideology and even labeled hypocritical. When this new perception took hold in China, charitable activities previously run by “the people” fell under government control.

It was not until the reform and opening period of the early 1980s that public opinion gradually began to shift and became more accepting of the modern notion of philanthropy and charitable giving. The government also began to realize the importance of philanthropy and to actively promote charitable work. It introduced relevant policies, laws and regulations governing the philanthropic sector, and established some of the earliest government-run charitable organizations. The CCF came into being against this backdrop. Not long after, Civil Affairs offices at the local level began to establish local CCFs.

The majority of local CCFs were thus established by local Civil Affairs departments, and many even ended up as administrative offices within Civil Affairs. These local CCFs were officially authorized to solicit charitable donations, leading some to argue that their monopoly on resources will restrict the space for NGOs. Fundraising through government channels also does not foster a modern notion of charity or independence among the citizenry, and it has a detrimental effect on the culture of charitable giving.

Society’s Push for Change

Professor Deng recognized that the CCF has up to now made a historic contribution to the development of China’s philanthropy. But he went on to say that when the CCF first came into being, it was said that “the government would be involved initially in order to withdraw later.” In reality, the CCF’s actions are not consistent with that original intention. “The CCF has already had a period of 15 years to develop with the government’s backing,” Professor Deng observed. “If it does not evolve, there is a danger that it will become an entrenched interest in Chinese philanthropy.”

Yang Tuan, deputy director of the Social Policy Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), shares Deng’s view of the CCF. “It should bear in mind and recall its 15-year history; compared to those organizations that have been around for only three or even five years, the CCF should be more mature and engage in some soul searching,” she says.

Yang served as Executive Deputy Secretary-General of the CCF for five years when the organization was first established. Since then, she says, bureaucratization has become a more serious problem in the organization. “These last few years, the CCF has moved closer to the government, and further from civil society.”

In the Report on Chinese Society, some local CCF offices and government officials disagreed with Professor Deng’s point that “the CCF is hindering the development of philanthropy in China”. In defense of the CCF’s role in promoting philanthropy in China, Mao Shanghui, Secretary-General of the Jiangsu province CCF, compared the CCF to the Red Cross Society of China (hereafter, Red Cross). The government’s presence in the Red Cross Society is greater than in the CCF, Mao said, since the Red Cross is managed in line with the status and benefits given to national civil servants.

Local-level CCF’s naturally feel misunderstood and even offended by the criticism they encounter from the outside, but Yang Tuan says “while she understands why the CCF might feel offended at being compared to the Red Cross and at being viewed as ‘better than some, but worse than others,’ at the same time, the CCF should understand that the criticism is not unjustified and reflect on the choices it has made over the past 15 years.”

Professor Deng also remarked, “the Red Cross is not without administrative powers, but relatively speaking, it holds slightly less government authority [than the CCF]. This does not mean that Red Cross is without problems, but compared to the CCF, the Red Cross has less influence on the culture of philanthropy.”

Local-level CCFs have compared themselves to the Red Cross in an attempt to deflect criticism, but important legal differences exist between the two. Professor Deng explained that the CCF is mainly governed by laws and regulations adopted by the State Council, in particular the Regulations on the Registration and Administration of Social Organizations, while the Red Cross is governed by the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Red Cross Society passed by the National People’s Congress in 1993.

Furthermore, industry insiders point out that when the CCF joined United Way International in 1998, it flouted international fundraising guidelines, which required it to use the funds it raised to support civil society organizations, and instead channeled those funds into the CCF or government system.

In addition, other public foundations have expressed resentment at the CCF’s exclusive right, along with the Red Cross, to fundraise during a major disaster. Professor Deng has challenged the legality of the practice and pointed out that it is granted in accordance with guidelines issued by the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA), which are in conflict with the higher-level Regulations on the Management of Foundations promulgated by the State Council ((Editor’s Note: MCA is under the State Council in the government hierarchy, and thus regulations issued by the State Council should in theory supersede MCA regulations.)).

Zheng Yuanzhang, director of MCA’s Department of Charity and Social Donations, confirmed that in previous years, authority for the CCF’s “exclusive fundraising privilege” could be found in a MCA document, noting that “the CCF behaves like a public foundation because it believes the MCA renders it one.” Thus, the crux of the problem, in Zheng’s opinion, is that there exists “a certain legal and operational contradiction between the CCF’s “social organization” [shehui tuanti] governance structure and its responsibilities as a public foundation, and further research and appropriate adjustments should be made3.”

The CCF and the Government Should Undertake Reforms

The CCF’s exclusive privilege to fundraise is not just a technical issue, but has systemic implications. Once the CCF is able to free-ride on administrative power, it has exclusive access to substantial charitable resources, preventing other civil society organizations from having a chance to participate. At one point in time, there was an outcry in some cities along the southeast coast where the government had become involved in charity work, but today government interference in charitable affairs no longer makes the news.

In a recent investigation, Professor Deng discovered that several local MCA departments that were concerned about resource diversion had prohibited enterprises or individuals from establishing private foundations. Enterprises or individuals could only participate in the philanthropy system under the separate “special fund” category, or else donations would have to be made directly to the CCF4.

On defining the boundary between governmental power and philanthropy, Professor Deng explained: “The government should help, not be an agent. Often, local governments aren’t successful at managing the degree of involvement and will cross the line. Once the government initiates an activity, businesses must make contributions. This actually ends up being an exchange of interests, rather than a donation made wholly out of the goodness of one’s heart. This has a detrimental effect on fostering a culture of charity. The culture of charity should be based more on the voluntary participation of citizens; passive or compulsory acts of charity are counterproductive and can lead to a vicious cycle.”

However, Director Zheng, of MCA’s Department of Social Welfare and Charity Promotion, suggested that charities around the country face different situations and are in different stages of development. “Under these circumstances, phenomena with different degrees of acceptability exist. We should be thinking of how best to provide guidance, and gradually improve the areas that are not acceptable. Entirely discarding the current philanthropy development model is not conducive to examining other possibilities; we need to allow some areas to experiment,” Mr. Zheng said, adding, “Just like in the reform and opening process, we are all feeling the stones when we cross the river5.”

As a scholar, Professor Deng thinks the critical issue is the relationship between the government and the CCF; ideally, “the government should be distinct from society, and government activity should be clearly demarcated.” Yet, the CCF’s overall transformation process has not been very smooth. The main obstacles arise from within the system. On one hand, there is no external pressure to change, since society, including the academic community, does not sufficiently monitor the system. Secondly, there are no incentives from within for reforms. A large part of the revenue that pays the salaries of CCF staff comes from local governments, so there is little desire on the part of the CCF to withdraw from the government. Third, there is no ability to bring about change. Over time the CCF has grown reliant on the government system and developed a set of administrative and bureaucratic practices mirroring those of the government bureaucracy, stifling the ability to promote institutional reforms from within.

In this regard, Professor Deng explained that he is playing the role of a scholar by making appeals to and exerting some pressure on the CCF. He wants to “promote a more scientific, rational working relationship between the CCF and MCA, and hopes the CCF will, in the future, play a more positive role.” Professor Deng’s comments elicited agreement and recognition from Director Zheng.

Too Involved or Not Enough? 

Yang Tuan of CASS candidly pointed out that the transformation of the CCF is a secondary issue: one cannot count on changes to the CCF if the Ministry of Civil Affairs does not change its current relationship with CCF.

Yang Tuan believes that a pattern can be discerned in the disparities of China’s social organizations, depending on their proximity to the government. The closer social organizations are to the government, the more privileges, resources, and power they accrue, and the better their development conditions are. The national-level and local level CCFs are a part of this pattern.

In addition, more importantly, MCA not only coordinates the registration of social organizations, it is also at the same time responsible for the development of the philanthropic sector. It is precisely because of a preexisting relationship with MCA that the CCF has become the most favored channel for the Ministry of Civil Affairs to carry out philanthropy nationwide.

In 2004, the Fourth Plenum of the 16th CPC Central Committee announced that it would work to “improve social insurance, social relief, social welfare and philanthropy, which together comprise the social security system,” and that the development of philanthropy would be treated as an important component of the social security system. This implies that the government sees philanthropy not just as a sector to regulate by creating policies and laws, but also as a political achievement to be attained6.

Yang Tuan explained, “The local governments’ misunderstanding of this policy” has culminated in their eagerness to encourage philanthropy as a means for improving their work performance and reputation.” Around 2006, when a wave of philanthropy swept coastal cities in Shandong and Zhejiang provinces, and small and medium-sized enterprises made donations in funds bearing their names, there were suspicions of government involvement in the fundraising.

Meanwhile, Director Zheng is supportive of efforts by different regions to experiment with development models. For instance, with regard to Henan’s Yingyang local government’s approach, which created quite a stir in the media when the government announced that it had “established 1000 charitable organizations and elected 5000 Goodwill Ambassadors,” Director Zheng believes in actively supporting this and other development paths during this current stage of “letting a hundred flowers bloom.” He believes a way forward for philanthropy will emerge that is appropriate for the current phase of China’s development.

On the issue of the government’s relationship to philanthropy, scholars more often believe that the government has exceeded its role in developing philanthropy. Some scholars even believe that it was not appropriate for the government to establish a government bureau for the philanthropy sector, specifically MCA’s Department of Philanthropy and Social Contributions established in 2008. Scholars are concerned that this move will give the government more power over philanthropy work and influence its relationship with non-governmental charities.

In contrast, regarding the current development of philanthropy, Director Zheng believes inadequate effort is made by the government with respect to oversight, the monitoring of charitable organizations and the implementation of laws, regulations and policies. There is also insufficient guidance for the philanthropy sector to establish urgently needed rules, procedures, and standards. The government does not do enough to build the capacity of charitable organizations. It is precisely such government inadequacies in these areas that have created a bottleneck in the philanthropy sector’s development. “Inadequate efforts are the principle problem at this stage, not excessive efforts,” said Zheng. But he expressed concerns over excessive government involvement in fundraising and hoped that government bureaus would not be directly involved in fundraising or soliciting donations, but rather directs their attention to providing guidance on key philanthropic areas.

Changes to the CCF

“The CCF must first be separated from the MCA,” argued Professor Deng. He provided three solutions for the CCF: the first option is to evolve into an institution supported by government revenues in accordance with law, operating autonomously. The second is to become an independent public foundation that not only can raise funds but can also carry out projects. The third is to become an independent public foundation, with the main difference from the second option being that the foundation would be required to be a United Way organization in a real sense, and use donations to fund community groups in carrying out charitable activities. Professor Deng favors the first and third option, but believes different options can be adopted in accordance with different, local conditions.

Professor Deng noted that, in the transition process, the government must be separated from the CCF and, at the same time, there must be a push for the CCF to establish a new partnership with the government.

Since the CCF is already “viewed as a public foundation”, Director Zheng believes that the CCF can explore this development path, but in the process of transition it should adjust its governance structure. Furthermore, the CCF can improve its working style and methods to enhance the mobilization and development of resources for the public. Additionally, he stressed that society’s discussion of the CCF’s transformation needs to consider its historic role and cannot focus solely on the present controversy, while ignoring its contributions.

Currently, the CCF and local CCFs have not given their response. However, some local charitable organizations have undertaken reforms that offer signs of change in the philanthropy sector.

In 2004 when the Regulations on the Management of Foundations were first issued, the Shanghai Charity Foundation (上海慈善基金会) made a substantive change from a social organization into a public foundation specializing in financing and fundraising. In an interview Ma Zhongqi, Executive Deputy Secretary-General of the Shanghai Charity Foundation (hereafter, SCF), said that it had changed its governance structure and reduced the number of people on the board without affecting its normal operations.

The SCF’s biggest change, however, is that it no longer raises funds for its own projects, but has begun to collaborate with other nonprofit organizations, including grassroots organizations. Other than continuing to operate some of its flagship projects, SCF also “raises money and allocates funds to nonprofit organizations.” In his introduction of the SCF, Deputy Secretary-General Ma said that starting in May 2008, the SCF began implementing Management Measures for Shanghai Charitable Foundations Regarding the Funding of Charitable Public Welfare Projects and started accepting applications from Shanghai social organizations, whereas in the past, it had mainly partnered with government-run agencies to carry out its projects.

Deputy Secretary-General Ma explained that any independent legal entity registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs can now apply for a Shanghai Charity Foundation project. In addition, the SCF does not accept applications for grants from government-run institutions.

With regard to the controversial debate surrounding the CCF and the development of philanthropy featured in the Report on Chinese Society, Ma said that such discussions are unnecessary. What’s important is to monitor the development; however, legislation is necessary. “The development of modern philanthropy first and foremost requires legislation. Because once the legislation is in place, many things do not need to be debated. Everyone just needs to act in accordance with the law,” explained Ma.

Those who were interviewed by the China Development Brief expressed their approval of the SCF’s transformation. However, it remains to be seen whether the CCF can learn from the SCF’s experience. Regardless, whether the CCF will carry out reforms and rise to the challenge certainly deserves the attention of all those in the philanthropy sector.

 


  1. Editor’s Note: The CCF is a GONGO and one of the biggest and most influential philanthropic organizations in China. It and the Chinese Red Cross are the only “social organizations” authorized to raise public funds in the event of a disaster. While GONGOs vary widely in terms of their ties with the government, Professor Deng’s remarks reveal that the CCF enjoys very close ties the government, so much so that local-level CCFs are even considered divisions of the local Civil Affairs departments. 

  2. Editor’s Note: Throughout this issue, we use the term GONGO to refer to “government-organized” NGOs, and NGOs or grassroots NGOs to refer to NGOs set up voluntarily and independently of the government. There is no clear-cut division between GONGOs and NGOs; rather, think of it more like a continuum in which some organizations are closer to the GONGO end of the spectrum, while others are closer to the NGO end. 

  3. Editor’s Note: In other words, the CCF is legally a social organization (shehui tuanti), which has a different status than a public foundation [gongmu jijinhui], and yet, operationally speaking, the CCF often behaves like a public foundation. Yet the CCF also enjoys privileges that no public foundation, let alone a social organization, enjoys and that is the authority to solicit public donations in the event of a major disaster. After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, that privilege was extended to select public foundations, but the Red Cross, CCF and Civil Affairs departments were still the major beneficiaries of the public donations made to the earthquake relief. 

  4. Editor’s Note: The issue about resource diversion was MCA’s concern that enterprises or individuals might engage in fraud by diverting donations into their own pockets. The “special funds” mechanism is described in more detail in other articles in this issue. See “The One Foundation and SEE as “shell” Foundations” “Grass-roots NGOs Go through Special Funds to Raise Resources” 

  5. Editor’s Note: Zheng here invokes a popular saying to describe the experimental, ad hoc nature of the reform process started by Deng Xiaoping in the late 1970s: “cross the river by feeling for stones” (mo shitou guohe). 

  6. Editor’s Note: This goes back to Professor Deng’s remarks about the need to separate government from society and place clear limits on government activity. By conceiving of philanthropy as a political activity, the party-state is encouraging more government involvement in philanthropy and further blurring the line between government and voluntary charitable activity on the part of the public. 

慈善会系统的转型去向
王辉
中国发展简报2010春季刊第45卷
2009年10月底,清华大学NGO研究所邓国胜副教授应邀参加了NGO互 动网举办的沙龙,对慈善会提出了尖锐的批评。
其后,他的观点在《中国社会报》上一经发表,引来学界、慈善界、政府官员的激烈争论,相关话题一时间沸沸扬 扬。但舆论漩涡中的中华慈善总会一直没有表态和回应。年前曾为此积极筹备的媒体见面会,直到春节结束后,也未能如期举行。笔者多方联系采访,也未能如愿。 看来,慈善总会对此保持了低调。
当时做客沙龙时,邓国胜直言,“中国慈善会严重影响中国慈善事业的发展。”他认为“慈善会系统自主化程度比较低,尤其是越基层的慈善会,独立自主的程度越低,很多到省级的慈善会基本相当于一个民政部门的处室,如果这样发展,中国慈善事业是没有希望、没有前途的”。
其后《中国社会报》上的“谁阻碍了中国的慈善事业发展”这句诘问,在指向慈善会系统的同时,也给我国的慈善事业带来反思。
自1994年中华慈善总会首开“慈善会”之风成立,到如今,慈善会系统在全国已有270家团体会员,形成了覆盖全国的慈善体系。走过的15年风风雨雨中,慈善会系统在为中国慈善事业做出发展贡献的同时,自身也因与行政权力过度接近带来的社会资源垄断等系列问题而备受指责。此番争议,不过是该系统脱离社会期望所引发的又一次舆论爆发而已。
曾领慈善风气之先
20世纪90年代初,慈善会自上而下成立起来,并建立了一套自己独立运行的慈善运作系统,它们与各级政府之间建立的微妙关系,使其有了一个与“民间”、“草根”相对的名称:“官办”。尽管总会当时是在“无一分财政拨款,无一个行政编制,无一位政府在职官员”的情况下成立的,但官办的色彩并不因此而减弱,在各地方慈善会那里,这种色彩更加浓厚。
自古以来,我国民间有着良好的民间慈善文化和传统,但到1949年以后,这个传统被中断了。慈善在新的时期被认为具有宗教和迷信色彩,且不符合社会主义意识形态,故被定性为“伪善”。在这样的认识下,原有的慈善活动通通归人民政府主导,由单位等形式代替民间行动。
直到20世纪80年代改革开放初期,社会舆论才慢慢接受“慈善”的 概念及慈善活动。政府也开始意识到慈善的重要性。由于当初民间慈善意识和能力尚不成熟,为推动慈善事业发展,政府介入慈善并积极推动,出台了相关的政策法 律法规,并发起成立了一批早期的官办慈善组织。中华慈善总会正是在这样的背景下应运而生,其后各地民政部门也相继成立地方慈善会。
但这些慈善会大多数都是由各地民政部门发起成立,很多甚至直接隶属于民政部门的一个处室或科室。当地方慈善会借助着这些特殊身份进行行政劝募时,其天然具有的资源垄断性,必然挤压其他民间组织的生存空间。此外,通过行政手段的劝募,也不利于培养公民的现代慈善意识和自主性,对慈善文化也起到一定的破坏作 用。
来自社会的转型期待
对慈善会发展至今给中国的慈善事业做出的历史贡献,邓国胜表示认同。但是邓进一步提到,慈善会当初成立时,声称“政府今天的介入,是为了明天的退出”,可迄今为止,慈善会系统似乎并没有表现出还慈善于“民间性”的意愿。邓国胜认为,“慈善会借助政府的权力已发展起来,目前已有15年的历史之久,所以应该有所转型,否则会固化成慈善会的既得利益。”
中国社会科学院社会政策研究中心副主任杨团也表达了同样的观点。她认为,“慈善会应该考虑自己走过的15年历史。15年对慈善会来讲,应该是一个少年了,它应该比那些刚刚才成立三五年的组织要成熟很多,所以更应该来反省。”
杨团曾在中华慈善总会成立之初就担任其常务副秘书长,达5年之久。她明确表示,如今的慈善会比她当时在位时,官僚化更严重一些。“这些年慈善会是朝行政化方向走,而不是朝民间化的方向发展。”
在《中国社会报》上,地方慈善总会和一些政府官员对邓的观点予以回应,不同意邓国胜的“慈善会阻碍了慈善事业发展”的论断。江苏省慈善总会秘书长毛尚会甚至还拿慈善会与中国红十字相比较,以此来论证“慈善会促进了慈善事业的发展”。毛认为红十字的官办色彩比目前的慈善会浓厚得多,理由就是红十字会的管理目前仍参照国家公务员的身份和待遇。
外界的指责让地方慈善会感到自己不被社会理解,甚至觉得委屈。对此,杨团的看法是,她理解慈善会系统与红字会系统的这种“比上不足、比下有余”的委屈,但“也不要怨天尤人”,所以仍要反省自己走过的15年的路。
邓国胜则回应,“红十字会不是说没有行政权力。只是相比较而言,红会在(掌握的)政府的公权力方面小一些。但这并不意味红会系统就没有问题了。但与慈善会相比,红会对慈善文化的影响力要小一些。”言下之意,他批评慈善会而非红会,板子并没有拍错地方。
在法律上,慈善会系统与红会系统也有着重要的不同。邓补充,前者的法律法规依据主要是国务院通过的《社会团体登记管理条例》,而红会系统则依照1993年全国人大常委会通过的《中华人民共和国红十字会法》。这也算是回应了地方慈善会拿红会作“挡箭牌”的言论。
更有业内声音指出,1998年中华慈善总会加入国际联合劝募协会后,并没有按照国际联合劝募的规则,将募集来的资金用来支持民间慈善组织,相反更习惯在慈善会系统或政府系统内部消化这些募集的资源。
此外,让很多其他公募基金会羡煞不已的是,在一些重大灾害发生之际,慈善会还常常获得政府的特惠,和红会一起独揽劝募的资格。对此,邓国胜提出异议:这种劝募资格“是通过民政系统内部文件规定的——慈善总会可以劝募,但这与国务院颁布的上位法《基金会管理条例》形成冲突”。
在笔者就“慈善会拥有的募款资格”向民政部慈善和社会捐助处郑远长处长求证时,他证实这是在民政部前些年的一个文件中明确的。“慈善会目前做的事情,(民政部门)视同于它是一个公募基金会。”他还同时提出,慈善会系统目前遇到的核心问题是,“它的社团性质的治理结构与担负公募基金会的责任在法理和操作上均有一定的矛盾,应研究并做适当调整。”
慈善会改革,政府也应该改革
但慈善会系统的问题,早已超越了是否具备公募基金会资格这样一个技术问题,它还具有体制上的含义。慈善会一旦搭上行政权力这个便车,大量的慈善资源则归入其中,使其他民间组织缺乏公平的竞争机会。曾几何时,东南沿海某些城市由政府掀起的“慈善风暴”一度甚嚣尘上,后虽有所收敛,然时至今日,政府借助行政权力干预慈善的新闻仍不绝于耳。
邓国胜在最近的调查中还发现,个别地方的民政部门怕分流资源,甚至不准许企业或个人成立非公募基金会,所以后者只能以“××××专项基金”的形式挂靠在慈善会系统下,或直接将钱捐给慈善会。
如何界定政府权力与慈善的边界,邓教授认为,“政府应该是协助,而不是代办。地方政府往往把握不好度,经常越界。政府一旦发起活动,企业不得不捐。这其实是一种利益的交换,而不是发自内心的慈善,对地方的慈善文化起到一种破坏的作用,不利于培育良好的慈善文化。”
“慈善文化更多的是基于公民的一种自愿参与,被动和强迫性的慈善行为会导致公民可能对慈善会产生一种逆反心理,有时候还会形成恶性循环。”邓补充道。
不过,民政部慈善和社会捐助处郑远长处长也提示,各地的慈善事业发展情况和阶段不同,存在的现象既有不合理的地方,也有合理的成分。目前应探讨如何引导,逐步完善和改进不合理的因素。对目前的慈善发展模式,一棍子打死不利于摸索,要允许一些地方开始实践。“就像改革开放初期一样,大家都是摸着石头过河。”
学者邓国胜认为关键在于政府和慈善会的关系,应该是“政社要分开,管办要分离”。 而慈善会的整体转型并不会一帆风顺,最主要的阻碍来自慈善会系统内部,一是没有压力,社会包括学界对慈善会系统监督不够。二是没有动力。因为慈善会工作人 员工资、收入很大一部分来源于地方政府,因此很难有跟政府主动脱离的意愿。三是没有能力。慈善会系统长期依赖政府,形成了一套与政府相似的行政官僚体系, 缺少能力来推动内部体制的改革。
对此,邓国胜解释说自己正在担当一个学者的角色,发出呼吁给慈善会施加一些压力,“推动慈善会系统逐步与民政系统建立更加科学、合理的工作关系,希望慈善会在未来能够发挥更大的积极作用。”此举得到了慈善和社会捐助处处长郑远长的认可和赞赏。
“越位”还是“缺位”
中国社科院社会政策研究中心副主任杨团毫不客气地指出,慈善会目前体制转变还在其次,关键是如果民政部门不改变目前与慈善会系统的关系,慈善会的转型成功仍不可指望。
杨团认为,中国的社会组织以与政府的关系远近形成了差序格局。社会组织越是靠近政府,拥有的资源优势、资源配置和组合的权力优势就越多,发展的条件就越好。无疑,中华慈善总会及各地慈善会处在这种格局的最里层。
此外,更重要的是,民政部门不仅是慈善会系统的登记管理部门,同时又是负责慈善事业发展的部门。正是这种慈善会与民政部门的“天然”关系,很大程度上让慈善会系统直接或间接成为民政部门在各层级或各地方开展慈善事业的最有利、最便捷的通道和载体。
2004年,党的十六届四中全会明确指出,要“健全社会保险、社会救助、社会福利和慈善事业相衔接的社会保障体系”,将发展慈善事业作为社会保障体系的重要组成部分。这意味着政府对慈善的态度,不仅仅停留在政策、法律空间的创造上,更多的时候,是把它作为自己的政绩来抓。
杨团解释,“地方政府对该政策的理解有误”,使得政府热衷慈善,以此来增加自己的政绩和名声。尤其是在2006年左右在沿海城市如山东、浙江刮起来的“慈善风暴”,采用冠名基金的方式向中小企业募集资源,在一定程度难以摆脱行政募捐的嫌疑。
但郑远长对地方探索发展出来的一些慈善模式持鼓励的态度。如2009年在媒体上闹得沸沸扬扬的河南荥阳政府表态“建立1000个慈善组织、推举出5000个慈善大使”的做法,他认为应当在积极的层面上予以鼓励,目前应该鼓励对慈善事业发展不同模式的探索,现阶段可以是“百花齐放”,在此基础上逐步归纳和形成与我国发展阶段相适应的慈善道路。
在政府与慈善的关系定位上,学者们更多认为政府在慈善事业发展中出现了越位,甚至有部分学者认为政府为慈善事业成立一个部门的做法较为不妥。这个部门就是民政部在2008年新近成立的“社会福利和慈善事业促进司”。学者们担心,此举会强化政府在慈善中的力量,影响与民间慈善的关系。
而郑远长认为,目前的慈善事业发展,最主要的矛盾是政府在对慈善组织的监督、法律法规、政策制定等方面缺位,以及引导慈善行业建立当前急需的规则、程序、标准等方面的缺失,政府培育慈善组织的力度也不够。正是由于政府在这些方面的缺位,才导致了慈善事业发展的瓶颈。“现阶段缺位是主要矛盾,越位不是主要矛盾。”当然,他也担心政府在行政募捐上发生越位,特别是不希望政府部门直接募捐和接受捐款,更应该多做工作指导和慈善重点的引导工作。
慈善会系统的转型去向
“慈善会系统首先要与民政部门脱钩。”在 此前提下,邓国胜给慈善会开出了三个转型方案:一是转型为政府财政支持的法定机构,自主运作;二是转型为独立的公募基金会,募款同时也可运作项目;三也是 转型为独立的公募基金会,但与第二种方案不同是,要求慈善会成为真正意义上的联合劝募机构,并将募款用于资助基层社区组织开展慈善活动。相较而言,邓国胜 倾向于第一和第三种方案,不同的地区可以因地制宜地采取不同的方案。
邓国胜说,转型的过程中,既要让慈善会与政府分离,同时也要给予一定的扶持,推动慈善会与政府建立新型的合作伙伴关系。
由于慈善会被“视为公募基金会”的 关系,郑远长认为慈善会可以探索向这方面转型,但在转型的过程中还需要进一步调整治理结构。此外慈善会系统在工作方式、方法上也有待提高,要加强平民资源 的动员和开发。但他同时也强调,在社会各界讨论慈善会转型的过程中,也需要顾及慈善会在历史上发挥的作用,不能单纯以现在的矛盾而否认慈善会的贡献。
目前,中华慈善总会及地方慈善会并未对此回应。然而,已经有地方慈善组织先行一步,其转型发展的思路,足以让人对慈善会系统的转型抱有期待。
2004年《基金会管理条例》颁布伊始,上海慈善基金会应声而变,完成了实质性的转变,由原有的社会团体身份转变为一家专做筹资和拨款的公募基金会。上海慈善基金会常务副秘书长马仲器在接受采访时说,当初改变了理事会治理机构,减少了理事人数,但没有影响到基金会的正常运转。
此外,最大的变化在于基金会不再是自己一手募款一手做项目,而是逐步与其他的公益性组织包括草根组织进行合作。基金会除继续操作原有的一些品牌项目, 同时“主要分管募钱,然后分配给公益机构使用”。马仲器介绍,自2008年5月起,上海慈善基金会就开始执行《上海市慈善基金会关于资助社会慈善公益项目的管理办法》,并开始接受上海市有关社会组织的项目申请,而之前主要是与是官办的机构合作开展项目。
马仲器解释,只要是民政登记的独立法人组织,都可以向上海慈善基金会申请项目。另外,基金会也不接受政府办的机构如事业单位的资助申请。
提及在《中国社会报》上有关慈善会与慈善事业发展的争论,马仲器认为这种讨论没有必要,关键要看发展,但立法是有必要的。“当下慈善事业的发展,首要的是立法。因为立法之后,很多事情就不需要争论,大家按照法律执行就行了。” 马仲器说。
对上海慈善基金会的转型,接受《中国发展简报》采访的受访者均报以赞许和肯定。慈善总会能否借鉴上海慈善基金会转型的经验,以及是否具备改革的决心和信心来面对这个巨大的挑战和考验,值得业界关注和期待。

CDB Staff Writer

Translated by Katie Xiao

Reviewed by Chris Young

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