Changing State-Society Relationship in China

In establishing the relation between state and society, based on the provided case study, in the context of civil society, state corporatism and societal corporatism indicate civil society as the final destination, where the changes and the reforms throughout the last decades will ultimately lead to it. The interpretations of the civil society are numerous, and although they all emphasize on society and people various distinctions might apparent. In that sense, the course to become a civil society in this case implies that, civil society is the domain in which the society is representative of itself, i.e. the private sphere, and autonomous from the state.1

It can be seen that the key factor in civil society is autonomy. Accordingly, GHAA as an organization, which main approval came from the Department of Civil Affairs of Guangdong Province Non-Governmental Organization Management Bureau, can be seen as completely autonomous. In that sense, it could be argued whether GHAA still a representative of state corporatism and as an extension of the state administrative apparatus. The specifics of the current Chinese social medium have a corporate-organizational nature which cannot be related to either types of corporatism, i.e. social and state. In that regard, according to the case study facts, it can be assumed that the current model is of intermediary nature. Nevertheless, the trend in the direction of the changes in state-society can be outlined, as it will be shown in the following paragraphs.

The changes traced through the process of forming the civil society is the process of the gradual disintegration of the state from the sphere of the market and the social relations. The evolution of the interrelations can be seen through different stages where each stage acknowledged a certain shift in state-society relations. The first stage represented the total integration of the society into the state structures and the total subjection of the society toward the state’s administrative system interests. This stage is a perfect demonstration of state corporatism, where the state had the most decision power.2 The birth of social organizations with the possibility to demonstrate civil initiatives, indicated the stage of the state-led civil society, where the state does not dominate directly, rather than control the legitimacy of the organizations forming unequal partnerships.

The next stage is distinguished with the period of the extension of economic space and expansion of the economic initiatives’ possibilities. The newly transformed state-society relations were partly seen as “one aspect of a more general dispersion of economic power within the state machine in which the central government in particular has gradually lost its power to control and regulate economic events.” 3 The decline of the state’s influence, although indicated the start of major shift in the state-society relations, it nevertheless was demonstrative of the state’s intention to increase its capacity.4 In that sense, the level of the state’s regulation of associations was related to the nature of these associations, where some of them obtained the government support, whereas others preferred to operate independently of the state’s influence. The stated guidelines of the coordination with the local government can be widely interpreted in different ways, and accordingly the state’s regulations differed in regard of such organizations. Additionally, without justifying the state’s actions, it should be noted the reforms toward market economy through its intermediary stages witnessed many cases of corruption in both private and public levels.

The current stage which can be paralleled with the presented case study can be seen as an extension of the previous stage with the previously assumed intermediary position. The various factors affecting the state-society relations clearly indicate that “Chinese society has become more independent, diverse, and pluralist.”5 Nevertheless, the legal reforms still pose certain constraints for the development of civil society. In that regard, the legislation of related to state elite interests can be seen as intervening in the state-society relations, where the elite core can strategically manipulate corporatists institutions such as the Association of Industry and Commerce.6 Nevertheless, as seen through the case study, GHAA was exemplary of an autonomous organization, where cases of state’s interference can be seen as merely exceptions.

In that regard, through the described changes and the case study, the state corporatism, as a form of governmental restriction of public participation, can be seen as the point of departure for the Chinese reforms. Accordingly, societal corporatism can be seen as an intermediary model, where the interaction between the organization and the state adopted models of governance that were still peculiar to corporatism development. Thus, it can be seen from the way the autonomy factor being influenced through the stages of reforms that going into such direction will lead to the final destination, the civil society.


The formation of business association clearly indicates the direction toward forming state-society relations indicative of a civil society. The trends can be clearly indicated through the way the policy has transformed within the recent decades in China. It can be argued that certain problems might exist in the course of developing a civil society. The cultivation of the structures of civil society such as trade organizations is a major step in the direction of solving such issues. The interaction of enterprises and the government through the trade organization, as outlined in the case study, shows the gained autonomy as a part of civil society structure. In that sense, the process of the formation of civil society can be seen as the process of denationalization of the social life and the gradual formation of democratic structures. The denationalization in a wider context can be seen as the social process of deliverance from the dictates of the state structures. A major role in that process is given to systems of local governance. China is only in the beginning of such road, where the indications of the still existing state corporatism can be seen as exceptions rather than rules that do not present the whole picture in China.


  1. Emma Porio. 2002. “Civil Society and Democratization in Asia: Prospects and challenges in the new millennium.” In New challenges for development and modernization, eds. Yue-man Yeung and Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies: Chinese University Press.
  2. Timothy Brook and B. Michael Frolic. Civil society in China (1997).
  3. Jing Song, ‘The State-Society Relationship and Market Transition of China’ (Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Sheraton Boston and the Boston Marriott Copley Place, 2008).
  4. Dingxin Zhao. The power of Tiananmen : state-society relations and the 1989 Beijing student movement (2001)
  5. Minxin Pei, CHANGING STATE-SOCIETY RELATIONS IN CHINA China Europe International Business School.
  6. Jude Howell. ‘Reflections on the Chinese State’ (2006) 37 Development and Change 273, 297.

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1. DemoEssays. "Changing State-Society Relationship in China." February 9, 2022.


DemoEssays. "Changing State-Society Relationship in China." February 9, 2022.