The Spring for Civic Public Interest has Arrived

Beijing News Public Welfare Report, January 17th 2014

中文 English

In this preface to the Beijing News’ 2013 Public Welfare Report, Narada Foundation chair, Xu Yongguang, lays out his bright outlook for the civic welfare sector in the aftermath of the 18th Central Committee’s Third Plenum Decision.

The Spring for Civic Public Interest has Arrived 

Editor’s note: This title requires a little explanation. The term “civic public interest” is actually a combination of two separate terms used here to refer to citizen participation in public welfare activities. One is the Chinese term, minjian, which literally translates as “from the people” and refers to activities initiated from the bottom-up by individual citizens, and is often used in contrast with activities initiated from the top-down by the government. The second term is gongyi, and literally translates as “public welfare” or “public interest”.

According to the statistics of China Foundation Center, the 135 foundations participating in Lushan Earthquake fundraising solicited 12.2 hundred million Yuan RMB within half a month, which exceeded the 7.7 million Yuan RMB donation received by the Red Cross Society of China for the same period. Altogether 4.55 million people contributed their money to the One Foundation of Shenzhen, which had no government background at all. The total donations to the One Foundation surpassed those of the Red Cross Society of China and the China Charity Federation put together.

According to the China Network Donation Research Report issued in September, the number of online donations made numbered 560 million by the time of its publication. In the internet era, this means every individual or institution in possession of a smartphone has an equal right and opportunity to participate in the allocation of resources for the public welfare.

Civic public welfare in China has made remarkable progresses in the process of transformation and innovation in 2013. Notwithstanding that the “civic index” for the public welfare sector still has experienced no great breakthroughs, the past year no doubt marks the brightest, most rational, most confident and most hopeful year for China’s civic public welfare development since the Wenchuan Earthquake in 2008.

A. High-level Design

First, the high-level design is clear and the reform is well-arranged. The 18th Central Committee proposed to “accelerate reform of the social mechanism” and it aimed at “constructing a modern social organization system with clear rights and responsibility and administration by law by separating social organizations from the government”. The NPC passed the State Council’s “Institutional Reform and Functional Transformation Plan” and proposed detailed measures for “reforming social organization governance rules”, i.e. “by separating trade associations and chamber of commerce from [their supervising] government agencies, introducing competitive mechanisms and allowing for multiple associations within one industry”; “giving priority to the development of social organizations in four categories: trade associations and chambers of commerce; scientific and technology associations; charitable and public welfare associations; and community service organizations in urban and rural areas”. Organizations in these four categories can apply to register directly with the Civil Affairs bureau.

The Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee proposed for the first time the new thinking for “a social governance innovation system and methods to improve social governance” and it further highlighted “stimulating the vitality of social organizations, handling the relationship between the government and society in a correct manner, and accelerating the separation of government and social organizations … letting social organizations assume the burden of tasks that can be addressed by public services provided by social organizations, and supporting the development of volunteer service organizations ”. The Third Plenum also arranged full deployment regarding “direct lawful registration for the establishment of social organizations”, “intensifying government procurement of social services”, “implementing tax preferences for charity donations”, “establishing a social participation mechanism” and “promoting the transformation of public institutions into enterprises and social organizations where the conditions are set”.

The high-level design regarding social system reform made by the Third Plenum will address the two bottlenecks (e.g. the legitimacy dilemma and the resource dilemma) that have been restricting the development of social organizations, will allow civic public welfare to return to the people. Civic public welfare organizations will be liberated. Compared with the decisions made on the Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee [this refers to the historic 1978 decision to support Deng Xiaoping’s “reform and opening” program], the Decision of the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee will mark a new start for civic public welfare organizations to redefine its relationship with the government and to administer themselves according to the law.

B. Beneficial Interactions

In the April 20, 2013 Lushan Earthquake, the government and the public interacted in a beneficial way which was the first step “for handling the relationship between the government and the society correctly”.

In past natural disasters, the government would mobilize the public to make donations and control the majority of those donations. After the Lushan Earthquake, the grassroots public welfare sector carried out rescue and fund-raising activities immediately. The Ministry of Civil Affairs responded to those actions in a positive manner and published an Announcement to the effect that “we advocate units and individuals willing to donate to earthquake-stricken areas, and to make contributions through welfare and charity organizations that have disaster relief aims and are legally registered, or through competent government departments in the stricken area”. This was the turning point for the disaster fund-raising mechanism to change from “administrative interference” to “social choice” and for the government’s withdrawal from the fund-raising market.

As soon as administrative interference in the public welfare sector fell, social enthusiasm rose. The public of China for the first time got their chances to select the organizations to which they want to donate their money. According to the statistics of China Foundation Center, the 135 foundations participating in Lushan Earthquake Fund-raising received 1.22 billion yuan within half a month, which exceeded the 770 million yuan in donations received by the Red Cross Society of China for the same period. There were altogether 4.55 million people who contributed their money to the Shenzhen One Foundation, which has no government background at all. In addition, the total donations of the One Foundation surpassed those of the Red Cross Society of China and the China Charity Federation together. In the Foundation Transparency Index (FTI) ranking, the 135 foundations participating in the fund-raising for the Lushan Earthquake all ranked at the top. From this, we can see that transparency plays a very important role in the public’s choice of foundations to support.

Another bright spot for the cooperation of the government and the public in the Lushan Earthquake rescue activities was the so-called “Ya’an Model”. After the earthquake took place, the Communist Youth League of Sichuan Province immediately set up a “Ya’an Earthquake Relief Service Center for Social Organizations and Volunteers” with the government’s blessing. It provided offices and coordination services for hundreds of social organizations and supported social organizations to take part in the long-term rescue and the post-disaster reconstruction in an orderly manner. This kind of innovative disaster management system based on cooperation between the government and social organizations is one that can be popularized.

C. Cooperation among Social Organizations

Cooperation among social organizations in 2013 deserves great appreciation. The dark horse of public welfare, a journalist Deng Fei, launched a series of public welfare programs including the “child-trafficking micro-blog campaign”, “critical illness insurance program for children” and “the Free Lunch program” etc. which received caused great sensations. But not many people knew that Deng Fei was supported by a social relief, social welfare and child charity foundations. The three foundations provided Deng Fei with a legal identity and public fund-raising qualifications and these were the necessary conditions for Deng Fei’s success. So it is also a rational choice for foundations to enhance their influence and to attract donations by cooperating with excellent grass-roots NGOs [and individuals] by way of sharing public fund-raising rights and thereby achieving complementary advantages. Of course, such choices require innovative thinking and the courage to assume the risks.

In the international arena, foundations are frequently the providers of capital for public welfare organizations; but in China, the number of grant-making foundations is still small. The 2nd Session of the “China Charity Exhibition” held in Shenzhen announced that it matched funders with 342 projects needing funding for a total sum of 1.709 billion yuan, but grassroots organizations only got a very small share of that money.

After the exhibition, over 100 grassroots NGOs aired their opinions and ranked the foundations, and the first 5 foundations Guangdong Qianhe, Beijing Western Sunshine, Narada Foundation, China Poverty Alleviation Foundation and Xinping Foundation got the “Kumquat Prize” awarded by grassroot organizations. This prize, which was called a counter-attack of the grass-root NGOs against foundations, manifested the strong wills of grassroots social organizations for cooperation and mutual development and it was also a challenge for the service notions and the professional competence of the foundation industry. This rising voices of grassroots NGOs demonstrate that the fundamentals of China’s civic public welfare sector are changing.

D. A Power Redistribution

The communication revolution brought forth by the information revolution is changing the power distribution in the public welfare sector of China in a very fast manner. The internet and news media satisfies the needs of the public for donation transparency, choices and immediacy and provide unprecedented convenience for the public to participate in welfare activities. According to the China Network Donation Research Report issued in September, the number of online donations totaled 560 million by the time of its publication. This means, in the epoch of mobile internet, every individual or institution in possession of a smartphone has equal right and opportunity to participate in the distribution of public welfare resources; while in the power redistribution accompanying “social media empowerment”, the winners must be public welfare organizations which have good credibility, high efficiency and can follow up on the technological revolutions.

Recently, the Anping Public Communications Award, to be granted by the Communications School of Peking University, was born. We hope that this civic and academic award will end the confusion in public welfare opinions and become a weathervane for guiding the values of public communications.

Public welfare innovation and human resource training became the two hot topics for the public welfare sector in 2013.

E. The Only Effective Means

Will the civic welfare sector result in chaos if it is given space to develop freely? Many worry about this. I must say that the return of the public welfare to the people brings with it great energy and vitality; it is common for the sector to have problems or to encounter challenges in the process of its development. But the problems and challenges are not so dreadful. If the government does not control everything, they will not feel deep sorrow for the handling of disorders. This is beneficial for them to rebuild their supervisory authority. We must believe in the public’s judgment and let them have the last word about civic welfare organizations.

The government should also support the establishment of the self-disciplinary mechanism for the public welfare sector as this would be the only effective means for the public welfare sector to make self correction, to weed out bad examples and to strive for excellence. Seventy-two hours after the Ya’an Earthquake, “the April 20 Disaster Relief Self-disciplinary Union” was established. The 5th “China Non-Public Fund-Raising Foundation Development Forum” was held, paying great attention to critical issues related to the development of the industry, and has evolved into an embryonic alliance. In November, the 2013 Chinese Civic Welfare Transparency Rankings, which included over 1000 grass-root NGOs, was published, complementing the FTI. While the transparency rankings showed that the transparency situation of grassroots NGOs is still problematic, the common will and action of the sector will lead to its stable and healthy development.

Just like reform in other fields, social system reform also involves multiple interests. Premier Li Keqiang once said “touching on interests is more difficult than touching the soul”.

The government undertakes major responsibility in the public service sector and the mindset of the old centrally-planned economy still weighs heavily on the public welfare sector. From 2007 to 2012, the investment of the government in social services increased by 2.03 times, while the share of social organizations in the investment dropped by 18%, which shows the “contribution” of the old way of thinking. A piece of bad news came from the China Charity Exhibition that the total nationwide donation amount dropped the last 2 years in succession. So, we must be aware that, behind the positive reports such as “Charitable Fund-Raising Sees an Increase from the Public and Decrease from the Government”, though fund-raising by administrative command has declined, donations from the public will not be sufficient to compensate for the decline in total donations in the short term. In spite of this, I am of the opinion that as long as the donation made by the public is willingly contributed, it should be seen as remarkable progress.

F. Changes in the System

Now, the government is trying to do something for the sector. But, whether or not social organizations can follow up and handle everything properly remains a question. So, the opportunity and the challenge for the industry are both unprecedented.

China has a long-standing history for charitable undertakings and the Chinese are not short of charitable spirit. What is in shortage at the present is a good donation system. Large donations involving asset transactions will be levied a property transaction tax. Income earned from public welfare assets will also be levied an income tax. These cast a shadow over the minds of the rich who want to make donations. Cao Dewang donated 3.5 billion yuan in stocks, but he was assessed a tax of 672 million; Chen Fashu promised to donate 8.3 billion yuan in stocks, but failed to meet his promise because he worried he would have to pay back taxes for asset transfers, and earned a bad name as a result; in 2012, Lu Dezhi made a grand announcement to establish a 10 billion yuan foundation, but took no action in 2013, and even reduced his registered foundation assets from 200 million to 50 million. He even thought of registering a foundation in Hong Kong. Among all the tycoons in China, only Niu Gensheng had the ability to foresee. He established an overseas public welfare trust by using his stock rights in Mengniu, then contributed nearly 200 million yuan in annual proceeds to the Laoniu Foundation. He started his charity undertaking at home, with his wife and children. He had no restrictions at all and he was happy about it.

The public welfare trust laws of China have been in existence for 12 years, but have still not been carried out. Donation tax policies not only repress the enthusiasm of the rich for donation, they also restrict the development of public welfare organizations. Besides, the system design for nonprofit organizations contains defects such as the lack of legal protections for private investment, as well as confusion over whether or not an organization is for-profit or not-for-profit. These defects have become major barriers in the development of civic organizations in fields such as education, medical treatment and elder care. Reforms for the above-mentioned defects are really the expectations of the public welfare sector in this new year.

The government’s effort in intensifying procurement of social services and speeding up the construction of a “beneficial but not expensive” public service development mechanism is closely related to the overall arrangements for beneficial interaction between the government and society. The government is trying to do something for the public welfare sector. But, whether or not social organizations can follow up and handle everything properly remains a question. This is not an internal affair of a certain organization or the affair of an individual. It is a big problem that may test the competence of the whole public welfare sector. Therefore, it deserves sincere consideration of everyone in the sector and requires everyone to act properly for the sector. Regarding the procurement of social services by the government, in order to guarantee the justice, the transparency and the efficient use of capital in the procurement procedure, I believe that it is an extremely urgent business for the public welfare sector to establish a strict supervision and appraisal system.

G. Positive Energy

In retrospect of the year 2013, there was a hot topic deserves our reflection. The First Lady, Ms. Peng Liyuan, manifested great charm as an ambassador of charity in foreign affairs activities. She displayed China’s soft power and won the respect of the whole world. The Practical Education Foundation established by the former Premier, Mr. Zhu Rongji, came into being; the former Chairperson of CPPCC, Mr. Li Ruihuan, also made public the Hometown Education Foundation he had established. In accordance of Deng Xiaoping’s unfinished wish, China Youth Science and Technology Innovation Award Fund, established with all Deng’s copyright royalties, was planning to enlarge its fundraising and conduct a series of activities; and the “Xixian Education Foundation” named after Deng Xiaoping also launched innovative public welfare activities among primary and middle school students.

The participation in and support for public welfare activities by the First Lady, former Chinese leaders and their relatives, and the civic public welfare from the people, and the Night of Charity and Welfare and Charity’s Man of the Year which appeared on CCTV, all arrive at the same end through different means. They all tell stories to foster the true, the good and the beautiful. And they all convey the positive energy of civic welfare and welfare for and by the people.

The Spring for Civic Welfare has arrived!










十八届三中全会首次提出“创新社会治理体制、改进社会治理方式”的新思想,并进一步强调:“激发社会组织活力。正确处理政府和社会关系,加快实施政社分开……适合由社会组织提供的公共服务和解决的事项,交由社会组织承担。支持和发展志愿服务组织”。还就“社会组织成立时直接依法申请登记”、“加大政府购买公共服务力度”、“完善慈善捐助减免税 制度”、“建立社会参与机制”以及“推进有条件的事业单位转为企业或社会组织”等做了全面部署。

十八届三中全会有关社会体制改革的顶层设计,将从制度层面克服制约社会组织发展的“合法性困境”和“资源困境”两大瓶颈,让民间公益回归民间,获得解放。比之35年前十一届三中全会标志经济体 制改革的“启航”,十八届三中全会将是民间公益明确界定与政府的关系、走向依法自治的新“启航”。



以往发生重大自然灾害,政府都会进行募捐动员,并掌控大部分捐赠资源。芦山地震发生后,公益界迅即开展救灾和劝募活动,民政部予以积极回应,发《公告》 要求:“个人、单位有向灾区捐赠意愿的,提倡通过依法登记、有救灾宗旨的公益慈善组织和灾区民政部门进行”。这是救灾劝募从行政干预机制转变为社会选择机 制、政府主动退出募捐市场的转折点。

行政干预退,社会热情涨,公众救灾捐款第一次可以完全自主选择受捐机构。据基金会中心网统计,参与 芦山地震的135家基金会,半个月内捐赠总额即达12.2亿元,超过红十字会系统7.7亿元的捐赠总额。455万人把捐款投给了没有政府背景的深圳壹基 金,使之捐赠总额超过中国红十字会和中华慈善总会。在基金会透明指数排名中,上述135家基金会均居领先位置,可见透明度已成为公众理性筛选受捐机构、 “用脚投票”的重要机制。

芦山地震救援行动中,政府与民间合作的另一个亮点是“雅安模式”。地震发生后,受政府委托,共青团四川省委迅 速建立“雅安抗震救灾社会组织和志愿者服务中心”,为进入雅安的数百家社会组织提供包括办公场地、项目对接在内的服务,支持社会组织长期有序参与救灾和灾 后重建。这种官民携手、政社合作的灾害救援社会管理创新模式,极具推广价值。


这个被称为“草根‘逆袭’基金会”的奖项,强烈表达了草根组织呼唤合作,共谋发展的意愿,也对基金会行业的服务理念、专业能力提出挑战。2013年,社会组织内部的合作亦可圈可点。公益“黑马”、记者邓飞相继发起的微博打拐、免费午餐、儿童大病医保等公益项目风生水起,引人瞩目。而许多人并不知晓邓飞背后有三家民政部主管的社会救 助、社会福利和儿童慈善基金会。三家机构分别为邓飞提供了基金挂靠的合法身份和公募资格,这是邓飞得以“起飞”的必备条件。与优秀草根NGO合作,与之共 享公募权,实现优势互补,也是这些基金会提高社会影响力、吸引捐款的理性选择。当然,做选择的背后少不得创新的意识和承担风险的勇气。

在国际上,基金会通常是公益服务组织的资金提供者,而在中国,资助型基金会数量尚少。虽说第二届深圳“中国慈展会”宣布实现了现场对接公益项目342个、 合作金额达17.08亿元的成果,但草根组织从基金会那里拿到的钱依然屈指可数。慈展会后,100多家草根NGO集体发声,给基金会打分,位列评价榜前5 名的广东千禾、北京西部阳光、南都公益、中国扶贫和心平基金会得到草根组织颁发的“金桔奖”。这个被称为“草根‘逆袭’基金会”的奖项,强烈表达了草根组织呼唤合作,共谋发展的意愿,也对基金会行业的服务理念、专业能力提出挑战。草根话语权的提升,反映中国民间公益的基本面正在壮大。



信息技术革命带来的传播革命,正以迅雷不及掩耳之势深刻改变着中国公益界的权力格局。移动互联网和新媒体满足了公益捐赠透明性、可选择性和快捷性的需 求,为大众参与公益活动提供了前所未有的便利条件。据《中国网络捐赠研究报告》显示,迄今已有5.6亿人次的中国网民参与了网络捐赠。这意味着,每一位手 中握有智能手机的个人和机构,均有平等权利和机会参与公益资源的分配;而在“新媒体赋权”的权力再分配中,赢家必定是那些公信力强、效率高并且追上技术革 命步伐的公益组织。正当其时,北京大学传播学院“安平公益传播奖”应运而生。寄望于这个民间性、学术性的奖项能力克公益與论乱象、成为公益新闻传播领域价值引领的风向标。 公益创新和人才培养,成了2013年公益界的两个热点。


政府还应支持公益行业自律机制的建立,这是公益行业自我纠错、清扫门庭、追求卓越的不二法门。 当民间公益获得相对自由发展的空间后,会不会乱?许多人不无担忧。应该说,公益回归民间肯定会带来蓬勃生机和活力,在发展中出现新问题、新挑战乃属常 态,有点乱并不可怕;政府不再操盘后,对“乱子”的处理无切肤之痛,有利于重建监管权威;还要相信公众的判断,对公益组织生杀予夺的真正权力掌握在公众手 里。

政府还应支持公益行业自律机制的建立,这是公益行业自我纠错、清扫门庭、追求卓越的不二法门。雅安地震发生72小时后,由42家基 金会加入的“4·20救灾行动自律联盟”即宣告成立。持续五届的“中国非公募基金会发展论坛”关注行业发展的重大议题,已具行业联盟雏形。embryonic form 11月,囊括 1000家草根NGO名单的《2013年度中国民间公益透明榜》出世,与基金会透明指数形成呼应。尽管榜单显示的民间公益组织的透明现状还不容乐观,但行 业自律的共同意志和行动,将引领中国公益走向健康。


政府承担着公共服务的主要责任,公共服务领域的计划经济思维依然根深蒂固。ingrained;2007年至2012年,政府社会服务投入增加了2.03倍,而社会组织所占 GDP份额则下降18%,这是计划经济思维吞噬社会组织生长的“功绩”。本次慈展会又传出“坏消息”——全国慈善捐赠总量连续两年下降。殊不知,在类似 《慈善募捐,云南官退民进》这样的积极报道背后,以权谋捐将会减退,民间捐款短期内难以平衡捐款总量的下降。即便如此,只要捐款来自公民发自内心的“乐 捐”,那就是货真价实的进步。



大额捐赠资产转移时要课财产交易税,公益资产收益要征收企业所得税,无疑给富人慈善投下了阴影。曹德旺捐股35亿,欠税6.72亿;陈发树承诺捐股83 亿,担心资产转移补税而未兑现,落了个“诺而不捐”的冤名;卢德之2012年高调宣布建百亿基金会,但2013年未见动静,还把登记的基金会资产从2亿减 资为5000万。他甚至萌生了到香港注册基金会的念头。国内富豪只有牛根生有“先见之明”。他用所持蒙牛股权在境外建立了公益信托,并把该信托资产每年近 2亿收益捐给老牛基金会,带着妻儿做家族慈善,了无羁绊,其乐融融。

中国公益信托法律制度出台整整12年了,至今未落地;课税政策不仅 打击富人捐赠的热情,也抑制了公益组织的发展。另外,“民非”制度设计存在私人投资“充公”、营利与非营利混淆的缺陷,已成民间参与教育、医疗、养老等产业发展的严重障碍。上述制度改革,是公益界对新一年的期待。

政府加大购买公共服务力度,加快构建“惠而不费”的公共服务发展新机制,事 关政府与社会良性互动合作的全局。面对政府“发力”,社会组织能否漂亮“接招”,机会和挑战前所未遇。这绝非某个组织本事大小的内部事务,而是考验整个公 益行业能力作为的大课题,需要全行业认真思考和应对。对于政府采购而言,为保证流程的公正、透明和财政资金使用效率,并有效杜绝利益输送和权力寻租等腐败 行为的发生,建立严格的监督机制和评估制度显得尤为迫切。



回顾2013年,有一个令人回味的精彩话题。第一夫人彭丽媛在外交活动中的慈善大使风采,展现了中国的软实力,赢得了世界的尊重。朱镕基前总理建立的 “实事助学基金会”亮相;前政协主席李瑞环也公布了他早已建立的“桑梓助学基金会”。遵照小平同志的遗愿,以他老人家生前全部稿费捐献设立的“中国青少年 科技创新奖励基金”,正计划扩大筹款,推出系列活动;以小平同志本名命名的“希贤教育基金会”则启动了中小学生创意公益活动“微善号”。




Translated by Liu Xiaoguang

Reviewed by Shawn Shieh

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