POLICY BRIEF NO. 9: Meet Your Local Social Affairs Committee

October has been a pretty quiet month as we approach the 18th Party Congress which is now scheduled to start on November 8.

One interesting policy initiative this month comes from the Beijing Social Affairs Committee (shehui gongzuo weiyuanhui). The Committee has established a “social construction special fund” to strengthen the stability and capacity of social organizations, particularly those that rely heavily on volunteers and lack full-time management personnel, by funding management positions within these organizations. This year, they have funded 200 such positions which include administrators and assistant for party groups in these social organizations.

What is the Social Affairs Committee (SAC)? It is a fairly recent creation and is an organ established under the local Communist Party Committee. Some localities have them while others do not. In Beijing, the SAC was established in 2009. In Guangdong, it was established just last year in 2011. In Beijing, the SAC and its local government counterpart — the Social Construction Work Office (shehui jianshe gongzuo bangongshi) – are one and the same office. The SAC is responsible for “social construction” which is the Party’s code word for carrying out social system reforms or social management innovation.  Its mission is to provide support services to social organizations, which appears to include establishing or strengthening party groups within these organizations. At this point, the eligible social organizations appear to be GONGOs and other organizations with close ties to the government, rather than grassroots NGOs.

There is also more news of reform in the southern city of Shenzhen. Against the backdrop of the recent suppression of some labor NGOs in that city comes news of a long-awaited draft of charity regulations issued by the Shenzhen government for public comment. These regulations are seen as potentially path breaking because they include important clauses addressing three of the major obstacles facing social organizations: registration, fundraising and taxation. In addition, it will allow foreign NGOs and individuals to register charitable organizations, something that would be a first in China. As is always the case, the devil will be in the details and in the implementation. We will be providing more analysis down the road.

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