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The Hidden Gaps in Rural Development: Examining Peasant–NGO Relations through a Post-earthquake Recovery Project in Sichuan, China

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 January 2018

Qing Liu
The University of Hong Kong. Email:
Raymond Yu Wang
Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China. Email:
Heping Dang*
The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen, China.
Email: (corresponding author).


While much of the scholarly work on the development of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in China focuses on their relations with the state, this paper adopts an anthropological approach to explore previously understudied peasant–NGO relations through the lens of a village-level post-earthquake recovery project in Sichuan. The findings highlight three main types of gaps between the NGO and local villagers: the gaps between the villagers’ immediate needs and the NGO's long-term development plan; the gaps between the villagers’ pragmatic concerns and the “building a new socialist countryside” campaign; and the gaps between the private and collective economies. In spite of the project's unsatisfactory outcome, the NGO did not consider the project a failure. We argue that these gaps were, to a great extent, attributable to the continuing development of the institutional values of NGOs, which guide the transition of Chinese NGOs from traditional charities to modern philanthropic organizations.


当前对中国非政府组织 (NGO) 的研究大多聚焦于 NGO 与国家之间的关系, 而忽略了对 NGO 与目标群体两者间关系的研究。本文采用人类学的方法, 通过对汶川地震灾区一个灾后重建及农村发展项目的探讨, 试图弥补这一缺失。研究发现 NGO 开展的项目与在地农民的实际需求存在三类主要冲突。第一, NGO 往往关注于农村社区的长远发展而忽视了农民短期的、最为迫切的需求; 第二, NGO 通常将项目的开展与既有政府政策 (如社会主义新农村建设) 相结合, 却与农民的现实考量相冲突; 第三, NGO 提倡通过发展集体经济以促进农村地区的共同富裕, 却忽略了集体经济在农村的失败经历和农民发展私有经济的诉求。本研究进一步表明, 当今中国 NGO 正经历由传统慈善组织向现代公益组织的转型过程, 其项目的开展必然受到行业理念与价值观的约束。鉴于此, 即便 NGO 能意识到这些冲突的存在, 也并不会轻易否定项目成果或为满足目标群体的需求而妥协。

Copyright © SOAS University of London 2018 

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