Yang Lan: Reforms Needed to Speed Up Charities' Development

January 20, 2014
Editor: Tracy Zhu

Yang Lan: Reforms Needed to Speed Up Charities' Development
Famous TV talk show hostess Yang Lan recently shared her insights on reforms related to the development China's charity and public welfare causes promised at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held in Beijing in November 2013.  [unisk.cn] 
Famous TV talk show hostess Yang Lan shared her opinions on the development of charities in China after the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) held in Beijing in November 2013. Yang participated in an online media panel of 100 philanthropy and communication experts jointly launched by the China Charity Alliance in collaboration with Web portals Sina.com and ifeng.com, and the magazine China Philanthropists in December 2013. Yang discussed the need to explore different strategies to develop charities in China.
Asked what is the most important proposed reform made in the communique of the Third Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPC on the development of China's charity and public-welfare industry, Yang pinpointed a reform on the separation of functions of the government and society.
Yang said just as the surge of China's economic development was engineered by reforms on the separation of functions of the government and market after the Third Plenum of the 11th Central Committee of the CPC in 1978, charities in China now need similar reform related to the separation between functions of the government and society to usher in a new stage of development.
The government and society need their own independent functions that are not only separated from each other, but also mutually interdependent and collaborative. Yang said only through this way can China's society take a big stride forward in development of social organizations. A good working mechanism of mutual collaboration and mutual cooperation between the government and society will be built up, which in Yang's eyes is most important for China's development in the future after more than three decades of reforms and opening-up.
Asked how to separate the functions of the government and society and what kind of relationship between the government and society can best trigger vitality of social organizations, Yang said the government should play a new role just like a referee in a sporting contest. The government should reform its previous practices, such as dealing with fundraising issues and allocations of funds, while at the same time focus on official approval work, supervision of social organizations, evaluation of annual reports submitted by social organizations, and punishment of social organizations that operate illegally.
As for the practical operation work of charity and public-welfare projects, the government should assert responsibility of them with social organizations to ensure stable revenue and normal operations of these organizations. Another important job for the government is to set up a good competition mechanism for social organizations to make them compete with each other for certain projects.
Only when social organizations perform well in taking certain projects can they be eligible or competitive in getting the entitlement of similar projects the next year. In this way, limited social resources and funds can be well used with high efficiency. Based on this kind of new working mechanism, Yang believes China's social organizations can rapidly develop.
On this point, Yang further suggests that government procurement of social services should be institutionalized so that a competitive environment can be fostered.

On the issue of tax relief for charity projects addressed in the communiqué, Yang said reform in this area should be fast tracked. She recommended fair and just examination of public-welfare organizations and individuals qualified to receive tax relief, with standardized examination institutions and strict supervision system.
Yang also talked about new proposals in the communiqué on encouraging social resources and social capital in fostering and cultivating the development of cultural non-profitable organizations. Yang said she felt encouraged by the approval of the proposal by the Central Committee of the CPC since she made a proposal on this issue while a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in 2012. Although Yang admitted that approval of the proposal relied on more than just her own contribution, she felt very gratified.
Yang pointed out that in the past, the definition of charity and public-welfare causes in China was too restrictive because it only focused on help and alleviation work of disadvantaged social groups as well as disaster relief work. Yang said the definition needed to be broadened to include cultural and educational organizations. This is important because without official proof of identity as a charity or public-welfare organization, cultural and educational organizations can't enjoy tax relief and preferential policies on import and export of cultural communication. Such constraints stifle development of these organizations.
Yang hopes that with further reform, China's charity and public-welfare organizations can play a bigger role in promoting the country's cultural heritage on the world stage, preserving cultural heritage, cultivating talents who inherit traditional culture and arts, and developing international cultural exchanges. Yang said the development of cultural non-profitable organizations can help enhance China's soft power for cultural non-profitable organizations' flexible functions in public diplomatic activities.

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