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Special feature: Locating Civil Society: Communities Defending Basic Liberties

Western Funding for Rule of Law Initiatives in China:

The Importance of a Civil Society Based Approach
Thomas E. Kellogg
p. 53-59


Recent research has suggested that Western donors working in China have channelled most of their funds to government-affiliated entities, including state-affiliated think tanks, academic institutions, and government agencies, rather than to grassroots civil society organisations. A more state-centred approach may have made sense in the early years of the reform era, when few non-governmental organisations existed in China that could serve as effective partners to Western donors. Yet the rapid growth and development of the civil society sector in China over the last several years means that a number of new actors are doing very important work on a range of issues related to human rights and the rule of law. The author argues that Western funding for newly-formed grassroots civil society organisations is crucial to the ongoing development of Chinese civil society. In addition, because grassroots groups can often make fuller use of key advocacy tools, such as interest group mobilisation, media advocacy, and strategic litigation, they may in some cases be even more effective in pursuing progressive goals than academic or government-affiliated entities. Western donors active in China should take note of the rapidly-changing civil society landscape in China and make efforts to ensure that their funding strategies are in line with the evolving country context.

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Bibliographical reference

Thomas E. Kellogg, « Western Funding for Rule of Law Initiatives in China: », China Perspectives, 2012/3 | 2012, 53-59.

Electronic reference

Thomas E. Kellogg, « Western Funding for Rule of Law Initiatives in China: », China Perspectives [Online], 2012/3 | 2012, Online since 01 October 2015, connection on 05 August 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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About the author

Thomas E. Kellogg

Advisor to the President and Program Director for China and Northeast Asia at the Open Society Foundations in New York. He has written widely on the Chinese legal system and legal reform in China.
Open Society Foundations, 400 West 59th Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10019 (

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