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Type: Thesis
Title: Problematising the Public Sphere in China: A Case Study of the Red Cross Society of China
Author: Wei, Bingling
Issue Date: 2020
School/Discipline: School of Social Sciences : Asian Studies
Abstract: Problems that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) encountered in China, where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-State has extensive control over society, raise question over whether the Western concept of public sphere is appropriate for China; or on the other hand, whether it is necessary to reconceptualise public sphere theory and practice to capture the realistic situation in China. To test this hypothesis the development and operation of the Red Cross in China will be analysed from both a historical and theoretical perspective. The thesis argues that the changing historic role of the Red Cross in China provides a case study of how NGOs operate within an environment in which the State plays an interventionist role in what can be deemed the public sphere. This case study of the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC), a member of the International Federation, takes us from its inception in China through to the post-Mao period up to 1999, and analyses how it operates within an environment where the State has historically and contemporarily been a central component of the public sphere. Whilst interference by the State is a constant, however, due to the historic change of political systems, this study of the RCSC shows different characteristics not only in terms of government intervention but also in conceptualization of the public sphere. The aim of this study is to explore the relationship between the RCSC and governments before and after 1949 and examine the history of the RCSC in four different periods as this NGO adapted to changing State regimes and what that says about such western notions of the public sphere and civil society. By examining the relationship between the RCSC and governments in the late Qing Dynasty, the Republic of China, the Mao era and the post-Mao era up to 1999, this thesis argues that despite the central role of the State in all the phases of the RCSC’s history in China, there was differing but still evidential operational space for its effective functioning in civil society. The broader implications of the evidence from the RSCS role is that NGOs in China are able to perform useful roles in the Chinese society, such as the provision of public goods and services that the State cannot effectively provide. In this case study of the RCSC, the thesis demonstrates that the government intervention in NGOs was a phenomenon evident during the late Qing dynasty period and in the Republic of China period, the Maoist period from 1949-1978, and finally, to the post-Mao period up-to 1999. The pattern of relationship between the RCSC and the State reveals similarities more than differences in the way respective State’s controlled the Red Cross and how the RCSC responded. Therefore, this case study concludes that the State’s interactions with NGOs is not CCP specific, that the concept of public sphere is not simply a matter existence or non-existence and that NGOs in China can find a space to function and operate from Dynastical to ‘socialism with Chinese characterises’ in spite of government intervention and interference.
Advisor: Gao, Mobo
McCarthy, Greg
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Social Sciences, 2020
Keywords: Public sphere
civil society
Red Cross
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