The emergence of civil society and intellectuals in China
This study investigates the emergence of civil society in China. The existence and sustainability of civil society in China has bearing on the country’s further economic, political and social development. Using a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods, this study employs secondary statistical data as well as individual and focus groups interviews to address the emergence of civil society and intellectuals in China. The position of this paper is that Chinese civil society has developed in ‘fits and starts’ since the beginning of economic liberalization in 1978. This contributed to changes in the political and social spheres, allowing more autonomous bodies to grow out of society as well as state structures, and facilitating the emergence of Chinese civil society. Intellectuals in particular have been able to exercise their autonomy in the Chinese policy process, influencing the direction of state policy towards their own interests, and consequently strengthening the public sphere and civil society. Chinese civil society is punctuated by the influence of the historical, cultural, and political factors that constitute the form of its institutions, organizations and associations, as well as how these social actors communicate in the public sphere. It differs from that generally found in western countries. Unlike the west, it does not exist in opposition to the state. Instead, Chinese institutions of civil society also exist at the interstices between state and society and across them as well. This entwining entanglement of civil society with the state is indicative of the specific social, political, economic, and cultural conditions that have contributed to its development. As it continues to emerge, Chinese civil society is increasingly becoming a sphere of identity formation, social integration, and cultural reproduction.
Civil Society, Public Sphere, China, Intellectuals
Master of Arts (M.A.)