Social Value Chains: A New Organizational Framework for Studies on State-Society Relations in China

Jun Han, Ji Ma, Zhong Wang


In the past three decades, a large number of studies has emerged to conceptualize the changing state-society relations in China. Yet, little attention has been paid to what kinds of social sector organizations these competing and conflicting studies were empirically examining or based upon. No synergy of the organizational foundations of these studies results in deep fragmentation and weak generalization of the arguments on state-society relations in China. To address this issue, this article systematically reviews organizational bases of extant literature on Chinese state-society relations, and then constructs an inclusive organizational framework, namely “social value chains”, by combining two mainstream organizational forms in existing research along with two understudied organizational types, as a new framework to guide future research on state-society relations in China. Social value chains include four types of social sector organizations: infrastructure organizations, financial organizations, support organizations, and operating organizations. In the end, this paper points out the potential applications of this new framework in future research.




Social value chains; organizational framework; state-society relations; China

Full Text:



Ahrne, G., & Brunsson, N. (2008). Meta-organizations. Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, USA: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Baum, R., & Shevchenko, A. (1999). The State of the State. In M. G. a. R. MacFarquhar (Ed.), The Paradox of China's Post-Mao Reforms (pp. 333-360). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Brook, T., & Frolic, B. M. (1997). Civil society in China. Armonk, N.Y. ; London: M.E. Sharpe.

Brown, L. D., & Kalegaonkar, A. (2002). Support Organizations and the Evolution of the NGO Sector. Nonprofit and voluntary sector quarterly, 31(2), 231-258.

Chamberlain, H. B. (1998). Civil Society with Chinese Characteristics? The China Journal(39), 69-81.

Chan, K., Qiu, H., & Zhu, J. (2005). Chinese NGOs Strive to Survive. In Y.-j. Bian, C. Kwok-bun, & C. Tak-sing (Eds.), Social Transformation in Chinese Societies: The Official Annual of the Hong Kong Sociological Association (Vol. 1, pp. 131-159). Leiden; Boston: Brill.

Dickson, B. J. (2000). Cooptation and Corporatism in China: The Logic of Party Adaptation. Political Science Quarterly, 115(4), 517-540.

Drayton, B., & Budinich, V. (2010). A New Alliance for Global Change. Harvard business review, 88(9), 56-64.

Du, J. (2004). Gender and governance: The rise of new women's organizations. In J. Howell (Ed.), Governance in China (pp. 172-192). Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.

Edwards, M. (2004). Civil Society. Cambridge: Polity.

Frumkin, P. (2002). On being nonprofit: a conceptual and policy primer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Fulda, A., Li, Y., & Song, Q. (2012). New Strategies of Civil Society in China: a case study of the network governance approach. Journal of contemporary China, 21(76), 675-693. doi:10.1080/10670564.2012.666837

Gold, T. (1990). The Resurgence of Civil Society in China. Journal of Democracy, 1(1), 18-31.

Gu, X. (1993). A Civil Society and Public Sphere in Post-Mao China?: An Overview of Western Publications. China Information, 8(3), 38-52.

Guo, C., Jun Xu, David Horton Smith, & Zhang, Z. (2012). Civil Society, Chinese Style: The Rise of the Nonprofit Sector in Post-Mao China. Nonprofit Quarterly, 19(3).

Han, J. (2011). To Enhance the Significant Role of Support Organizations in Advancing the Development of Social Organizations in China: A Case Study of Non-profit Incubator (in Chinese). In X. Feng (Ed.), Social Service Innovation and Management in Beijing. Beijing: Social Sciences Academic Press.

Han, J. (2016a). The Emergence of Social Corporatism in China: Nonprofit organizations, private foundations and the State. The China Review, 16(2), 27-53.

Han, J. (2016b). Policy Influence of Social Organizations in China. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 46(2), 1-19. doi:10.1177/0899764016655889

Han, J. (2017a). Social Marketisation and Policy Influence of Third Sector Organisations: Evidence from the UK. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 28(3), 1209-1225. doi:10.1007/s11266-017-9853-1

Han, J. (2017b). Teaching to Fish or Revolutionizing the Fishing Industry: The Development of Community Foundations in the UK (In Chinese). Chinese Social Organizations, 12, 45-49.

Hansen, M. T., & Birkinshaw, J. (2007). The Innovation Value Chain. Harvard business review, 85(6), 121-130.

Hasmath, R., & Hsu, J. Y. J. (2014). Isomorphic Pressures, Epistemic Communities and state-NGO collaboration in China. The China Quarterly, 220.

Hayek, F. A. v. (2011). The Constitution of Liberty: The Definitive Edition (R. Hamowy Ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

He, B. (1997). The democratic implications of civil society in China. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

He, B. (2003). The Making of a Nascent Civil Society in China. In D. C. Schak & W. Hudson (Eds.), Civil Society in Asia (pp. 114-139). Aldershot, England: Ashgate.

Hildebrandt, T. (2013). Social Organizations and the Authoritarian State in China. Cambridge; New York Cambridge University Press.

Howell, J. (2004). New Directions in Civil Society: Organizing around Marginalized Interests. In J. Howell (Ed.), Governance in China (pp. 143-171). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Howell, J. (2015). Shall we dance? Welfarist incorporation and the politics of state-labour NGO relations in China. The China Quarterly, 223, 702--723.

Hsu, C. L., & Jiang, Y. (2015). An Institutional Approach to Chinese NGOs: State Alliance versus State Avoidance Resource Strategies. The China Quarterly, 221(3), 100-122.

Hsu, J. (2014). Chinese Non-Governmental Organisations and Civil Society: A Review of the Literature. Geography Compass, 8(2), 98-110.

Hsu, J., & Hasmath, R. (2013). The Chinese Corporatist State: Adaption, Survival and Resistance. London: Routledge.

Hsu, J., & Hasmath, R. (2014). The Local Corporatist State and NGO Relations in China. Journal of contemporary China, 23(87), 516-534. doi:10.1080/10670564.2013.843929

Hsu, J., & Hasmath, R. (2015). Approaching Maturity: The Role of Knowledge and Professionalization in the Development of Chinese NGOs. Paper presented at the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting (August 22-25), Chicago, USA.

Huang, P. C. C. (1993). Public Sphere/Civil Society in China? The Third Realm between State and Society. Modern China, 19(2), 216-240. doi:10.2307/189381

Jia, X. (2010). NGO: Global perspective and Chinese development (in Chinese). Contemporary World, 6.

Lo, M.-C. M., & Otis, E. M. (2003). Guanxi Civility: Processes, Potentials, and Contingencies. Politics & Society, 31(1), 131-162.

Lu, Y. (2009). Non-governmental organizations in China: The rise of dependent autonomy. London, New York: Routledge.

Ma, J., & DeDeo, S. (2017). State power and elite autonomy in a networked civil society: The board interlocking of Chinese non-profits. Social Networks. doi:

Ma, Q. (2002). The governance of NGOs in China since 1978: How much autonomy? Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 31(3), 24-24.

Ma, Q. (2006). Non-governmental Organizations in Contemporary China: Paving the Way to Civil Society? London: Routledge.

Metz, P. J. (1998). Demystifying Supply Chain Management. Supply Chain Management Review, Winter.

Migdal, J. S. (2001). State in Society: Studying How States and Societies Transform and Constitute One Another. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ministry of Civil Affairs. (2016). China Civil Affairs' Statistical Yearbook (Zhongguo Minzheng Tongji Nianjian). Beijing: Ministry Of Civil Affairs.

Ministry of Civil Affairs. (2017). Statistical Bulletin of Social Service Development 2016. Retrieved from

Minkoff, D. C. (2002). The Emergence of Hybrid Organizational Forms: Combining Identity-Based Service Provision and Political Action. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 31(3), 377-401.

Murphy, R. (2011). Civil Society and Media in China. In D. Shambaugh (Ed.), Charting China's Future (pp. 57-66). London and New York: Routledge.

Nee, V. (1989). A Theory of Market Transition: From Redistribution to Markets in State Socialism. American sociological review, 54(5), 663-681.

Nevitt, C. E. (1996). Private Business Associations in China: Evidence of Civil Society or Local State Power? The China Journal(36), 25-43. doi:10.2307/2950371

Pearson, M. (1994). The Janus Face of Business Associations in China: Socialist Corporatism in Foreign Enterprises. The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs(31), 25-46.

Pearson, M. (1997). China's New Business Elite: The Political Consequences of Economic Reform. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Pei, M. (1998). Chinese Civic Associations: An Empirical Analysis. Modern China, 24(3), 285-318.

Porter, M. (1985). Competitive advantage: creating and sustaining superior performance. New York: Free Press.

Saich, T. (1994). The Search for Civil Society and Democracy in China. Current History, 93(584), 260-264.

Saich, T. (2000). Negotiating the State: The Development of Social Organizations in China. The China Quarterly, 161, 124-141.

Schmitter, P. C. (1974). Still the Century of Corporatism? The Review of Politics, 36(1), 85-131.

Shah, S., Han, J., & Gilman, H. R. (under review). Scaling Up Social Organization Ecosystem in China: A Comparison of Three Policy Models.

Shieh, S. (2009). Beyond corporatism and civil society: Three models of state-NGO interaction in China. In J. Schwartz & S. Shieh (Eds.), State and Society Responses to Social Welfare Needs in China : Serving the People. London: Routledge.

Shieh, S. (2017). Same Bed, Different Dreams? The Divergent Pathways of Foundations and Grassroots NGOs in China. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 28(4), 1785-1811. doi:10.1007/s11266-017-9864-y

Shue, V. (1994). State Power and Social Organizations in China. In J. S. Midgal, A. Kohli, & V. Shue (Eds.), State Power and Social Forces: Domination and Transformation in the Third World (pp. 65-88). Cambridge: Cambridge Press.

Shue, V. (2011). The Political Economy of Compassion: China's ‘charity supermarket’ saga. Journal of contemporary China, 20(72), 751-772. doi:10.1080/10670564.2011.604493

Skocpol, T. (1979). States and Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Skocpol, T. (1985). Bringing the State Back In: Strategies of Analysis in Current Research. In P. Evans, D. Rueschemeyer, & T. Skocpol (Eds.), Bringing the State Back In (pp. 3-37). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Spires, A. J. (2011). Contingent Symbiosis and Civil Society in an Authoritarian State: Understanding the Survival of China's Grassroots NGOs. American journal of sociology, 117(1), 1-45.

Stubbe, O. C. (1989). Citizens, Groups and a Nascent Civil Society in China: Towards an Understanding of the 1989 Student Demonstrations. China Information, 4(2), 28-41. doi:10.1177/0920203X8900400202

Teets, J. C. (2009). Post-Earthquake Relief and Reconstruction Efforts: The Emergence of Civil Society in China? The China Quarterly, 198, 330-347.

Teets, J. C. (2014). Civil Society under Authoritarianism: The China Model: Cambridge University Press.

Teets, J. C. (2017). The power of policy networks in authoritarian regimes: Changing environmental policy in China. Governance, n/a-n/a. doi:10.1111/gove.12280

Tocqueville, A., de. ([1835] 2000). Democracy in America (G. Lawrence, Trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Tong, Y. (2005). Environmental Movements in Transitional Societies: A Comparative Study of Taiwan and China. Comparative politics, 37(2), 167-188.

Tsai, L. L. (2007). Accountability Without Democracy: Solidarity Groups and Public Goods Provision in Rural China. New York, N. Y.: Cambridge University Press.

Unger, J. (1996). Bridges: Private Business, the Chinese Government and the Rise of New Associations. The China Quarterly, 147, 795-819.

Unger, J., & Chan, A. (1996). Corporatism in China: A Developmental State in an East Asian Context. In B. L. McCormick & J. Unger (Eds.), China after Socialism: In the Footsteps of Eastern Europe or East Asia (pp. 95-129). Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe.

Wang, F. (2013). Crazy nonprofit incubation? (in Chinese). Social Entrepreneurs, 57(3-4), 26-31.

White, G. (1993). The prospects for Civil Society in China: a Case Study of Xiaoshan City. The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, 29(January), 63-87.

White, G., Howell, J. A., & Shang, X. (1996). In Search of Civil Society: Social Change in contemporary China. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Yan, F., & Han, J. (2015). From Coercive Repression to Soft Maintaining: The social organizational basis of authoritarian stability in China (in Chinese). Asian Studies, 70(3), 19-40.

Yang, G. (2005). Environmental NGOs and Institutional Dynamics in China. The China Quarterly, 181, 46-66.

Yang, G. (2007). How Do Chinese Civic Associations Respond to the Internet? Findings from a Survey. The China Quarterly, 189, 122-143.

Yep, R. (2000). The Limitations of Corporatism for Understanding Reforming China: An empirical analysis in a rural county. Journal of contemporary China, 9(25), 547-566. doi:10.1080/713675952

Zhang, X., & Baum, R. (2004). Civil Society and the Anatomy of a Rural NGO. China Journal, 52(July), 97-107.

Zhao, D. (2000). State-Society Relations and the Discourses and Activities of the 1989 Bejing Student Movement. American journal of sociology, 105(6), 1592-1632.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Chinese Public Administration Review (ISSN 1539-6754, Online ISSN 2573-1483)  is published by the School of Government, Sun Yat-sen University.