This archive traced the development of Chinese grassroots NGOs back to the mid-1990s. New forms of civic organizations—such as professional associations, chambers of commerce, and learned societies—began to proliferate since the 1980s. But most of them had a close relationship with the Party-state. It was not until the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 when the concept of NGOs as a form of independent civic organizations was officially introduced to the Chinese audience. At that conference, the government approved approximately 3,340 NGO sessions including multitudes of panels, workshops, and cultural events. Even though it was motivated by the desire to bolster China’s international image, such effort had catalytic effects on the growth of Chinese grassroots NGOs.
Given the rapid growth in the number and diversity of Chinese NGOs, this archive only focuses on well-known grassroots NGOs established voluntarily by private individuals that pursue certain social missions through independent efforts. In capturing a tiny segment of Chinese NGOs, our goal is to provide scholars, practioners, and the general public a glimpse of the colorful mélange that composes China’s young civil society.