Are Chinese NGOs "Going Out"? The Role of Chinese NGOs and GONGOs in Sino-African Relations

Brenner, David. 2012. Are Chinese NGOs "Going Out"? The Role of Chinese NGOs and GONGOs in Sino-African Relations. Journal of Public and International Affairs, 22, pp. 131-152. ISSN 1070-521X [Article]

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Abstract or Description

As Chinese investments on the African continent have grown, many African non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have expressed concern over the negative side effects of China’s expansion on the continent on labor rights, local production, the environment, and local governance. Evidence suggests that Chinese government leadership realizes that it must effectively engage African NGOs in order to continue to advance its busi- ness goals in Africa. For this reason, the Chinese government has organized a variety of official NGO fora to augment the triennial ministerial-level Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) between China and African states. While these fora allow invited African NGOs to discuss issues related to the Millennium Development Goals with Chinese government- organized NGOs (GONGOs), the Chinese government remains reluctant to engage in substantively meaningful dialogue with African NGOs about issues of concern related specifically to Chinese investments in Africa. Instead, the government utilizesGONGOs as a liaison with African NGOs with the aim to man- age and restrict NGO involvement in Sino-African relations. Some GONGOs have, however, managed to distance themselves from the central government and have developed agendas of their own. Be that as it may, such GONGOs remain primarily concerned with promoting China’s image in African countries rather than engaging with politically sensitive aspects of soaring Chinese overseas investments in Africa. Independent Chinese NGOs that promote environmental and social responsibility for Chinese enterprises in Africa do exist, however. At present, though, they remain a rare exception, as the bulk of China’s NGO community lacks the resources, expertise, and networks to engage on issues relevant to Africa, and are preoccupied with China’s own social and environmental problems. Furthermore, despite the Chinese government’s promise to promote NGO involvement in Sino-African relations, it is far from supporting a greater international engagement by supporting independent Chinese NGOs, as it is doing with Chinese firms via its “going out” strategy.

Item Type:



China; Africa; Chinese-African Relations; NGOs; GONGOs; Civil Society


January 2012Accepted

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

05 Nov 2018 17:17

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:56

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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