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The Role of Chinese NGOs for China’s Opening Policy(2)

AF: Let us move on to the topic of change. What kind of changes would you like to see on the individual, organisational, societal and/or policy level?

HHM: Firstly, the services provided by CANGO members have changed. In the beginning, we had members focusing on poverty alleviation, environment, disabled, women, rural development. The focuses of our members are not the same now. For instance, the climate change project has become a network. We use the network to influence policy, for instance helping civil society organisations propose climate change legislation to the government. When you worked at CANGO, we did the 26 Degree Campaign, which was a single campaign, which had no strategic angle. But now we think from the perspective of a network, a sector. This is a change.

Secondly, the external circumstances have also changed. The government also needs civil society to make comments and suggestions. For instance, CANGO did research on the internationalisation of social organisations in 2013. The government was also interested in this research topic. We were awarded the first prize by the Ministry of Civil Affairs when we finished the research. This is a big change. It shows that there are demands for this kind of research, while there was no such kind of need in the past. It is much more of a two-way relationship between the government and civil society now, while it was a unilateral relationship in the past.

Thirdly, there are divergences within civil society. Some choose the professionalization route, some choose the grassroots route, and others choose the internationalization route. Why are there these divergences? Because the macro-environment has changed, the technology information and internet technology have made the Chinese society more complicated. Civil society itself is diverse, and with the external changes, it becomes even more diversified. This is another difference.

AF: You mentioned the trends of internationalisation (guojihua) and nativisation (bentuhua), but how do you view them? To what extent do Chinese civil society organisations need to nativise and in which aspects do they need to internationalise? When we talk about this topic, there seem to exist two views. One view emphasises nativisation, everything needs to be localised, whereas another view is everything needs to be internationalised, or westernised. I don’t think it is as simple as that. What do you think?

HHM: Personally, I think these both of these two views have a systematic logic. From the system perspective we could look at the example of Chinese restaurants. All around the world there are Chinese restaurants. This is the internationalisation of Chinese restaurants. However, these restaurants originate from China, they have their local roots. Only then are they being promoted all around the world. It is a bit like Hollywood movies. They originate from Hollywood in the United States and are then promoted globally. Some people in France may resist and they may not like watching these movies, even say that they are not going to pay for these movies. But in fact there still are people watching them. So first of all I think we should not see internationalisation and nativisation as conflicting concepts. I think that these concepts are interlinked.

I think that if you look at something from the societal perspective, whether it is nativisation or internationalisation, these are all processes. The way our understanding is constituted we should not overemphasize either one of them. If you do we tend to say that people are a bit overbearing and need to constantly defend their argument. They do not want to hear other people’s ideas, which is really annoying. I think that one should not go to extremes. It is a matter of degree. For example if you insist on only buying local products and not international products, for example an iPhone. So you buy Samsung, but Samsung is from Korea. Huawei is from China, but the chip inside is from Japan and the technology is from the United States. This is why we should not consider nativisation and internationalisation as mutually incompatible but as something which is interlinked. We need to look more systematically at the link between internationalisation and localisation.