China Power

Crying Wolf

The government really needs the new tighter rules on NGO funding from overseas. Really. Really?

While it’s the wrangling between Google and the Chinese government that has gotten most of the media attention the past few days in terms of censorship issues (according to an FT report, Google is almost certainly going to pull out of China—and good on it if it’s really on principle) authorities are also tightening their hold on NGOs.

As AP reports, thousands of aid groups may be affected by new government regulations that mean China-based groups ‘must show proof that overseas nonprofit donor groups are registered in their home countries. The groups, also known as nongovernmental organizations or NGOs, must strictly follow detailed agreements with foreign donors and not use the money in other ways.’

The thing is, as one British lawyer quoted in the article notes, such rules aren’t actually that unusual—it’s perfectly reasonable for a government to want to keep track of how ‘aid’ groups are being funded from overseas and by whom.

But the Chinese government may be a victim of crying wolf. It has spent so much time censoring, tightening rules and trying to bully dissenters that when it introduces what are actually quite reasonable regulations, its motives quickly come in for suspicion. In this case there seems like there’s probably good reason to be concerned. Or does that just prove my point?