Led by Faculty Chair Anthony Saich and Yu Keping of China’s Central Compilation & Translation Bureau, the 2013 Annual Symposium on Civil Society and Governance was held May 16-17 at the Harvard Center Shanghai. Eighteen faculty panelists from Harvard and China and about 30 special guests were in attendance. The participants had the privilege of hearing from United States Ambassador to China Gary Locke and ZUO Xuejin, the Former Executive Vice (Acting) President of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.
Topics of discussion ranged from whether “civil society” exists in China to the growing importance of NGOs as a “bridge” between the government and underserved populations. The conclusion from the dialogues was that civic activity does exist in China and is increasing in scope, intensity and variety of expressions; and the comparative study of Chinese civil organizations will continue to be fruitful both for identifying the limits of Western academic definitions of “civil society” and for pointing out where China’s reforms may have something to learn from “global best practices”.