Organizations play an indispensable role in complementing current system. The increasing awareness and heated discussions of environmental issues can be captured in the burgeoning civil society and large numbers of non-governmental organizations in China. However, the number of operating NGOs in China is quite hard to track because a huge number of NGOs remain unregistered as business entities or research institutions. State intends to control and monitor registered NGOs, but recent studies have shown the registration of NGOs in the state actually works in favor for both parties. For NGOs, they can gain legitimacy and sponsorship from the state. For the state, having a dynamic civil society and active parties of NGOs can greatly improve a state’s international image, and show its compliance with international norms. In addition, NGOs can help supplement government policies and stabilize society by taking social responsibilities.
Scholars also seek ways to explain why some social organizations stay unregistered. Some organizations like religious or private organizations are deeply rooted in society before the registration system. Their contribution in social society would remain the same whether registered or not. Another argument about un-registration is that, illegal NGOs continue to serve as a social service provider and will not get punishment from local government as long as they do not transform to a threat by criticizing the government. Another argument explains the existence of illegal NGOs taking a state’s approach. State remains indifferent about NGOs’ registration status because it has actual control over these organizations whether registered or not. Illegal NGOs are smaller and less noticeable compared to NGOs registered, and that makes illegal social organizations’ operation largely depend on governments’ patronage and foreign funding while government has a voice over its allocation.
The nonprofit sector is mostly filled with unregistered small-size, grassroots social organizations. An estimate of the sum ranges is 3.539 million operating social organizations, based on All-China Environmental Federation surveys in 2008.
Scholars also discuss why a significant number of social organizations operate in China. One possible reason is that a relaxed political environment helps social organizations flourish. Also, improved living standards and globalization prepare citizens for the concept of civil society.
Government-Organized NGOs (GONGOs), International NGOs (INGOs), grassroots NGOs and college students associations are the main categories in active organizations at present. The graph above explains the relations between these categories. GONGOs appear to be official and formal; INGOs and registered NGOs are non-official but formal; College Students Associations are official but not formal.
GONGOs, College Students Associations and International NGOs all together are the main actor in organizations....