Governing Chinese Nonprofit Organizations: The Promise and Limits of the ‘Third Way’

Zhibin Zhang, Chao Guo and Dongjin Cai

Using the lens of board governance, this study examines the capacity of Chinese nonprofit organizations as an alternative to the market and the state in addressing societal problems. Based on case studies of two community-based organizations, we find that in both the advocacy-oriented and service-oriented organizations, the board focuses on fundraising and program development. Yet this seemingly similar focus results from different environmental conditions: facing unfavorable institutional and resource environments, the board of the advocacy organization is pressured to take a more proactive and rigorous role for the sake of survival. In contrast, the board of the service organization, with significant support from the government, is committed to expanding the organization. Our findings thus raise concerns about whether Chinese nonprofit organizations are an effective “third way” to address public problems.

 International Review of Public Administration 16, no. 1 (2011): 11