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UCLA Pacific Basin Law Journal

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Charity with Chinese Characteristics


Over the past 30 years, scholars and activists have called on the Chinese government to ease the registration and oversight rules for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and to increase funding for such organizations by, among other things, broadening the charitable deduction. While China has made significant progress in this regard, the government continues to throw up roadblocks for NGOs, suggesting that it has not fully embraced this path.

This Article considers the extent to which the justifications for a broad charitable deduction adduced in the West make sense in China. The goal is to develop a normative basis for the deduction consistent with Chinese values and interests that Chinese authorities would find compelling. This Article also considers the extent to which China's political and social culture may affect efforts to foster an autonomous civil society through a broad charitable deduction. I conclude that even if China were to adopt Western-style laws governing NGOs and provide for a broad charitable deduction, China's culture would shape both how government officials implement the laws and how the Chinese people respond to them, resulting in a distinct system of charity with Chinese characteristics.

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