A Statistical Analysis of ONGOs’ Registrations and Temporary Activities

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Editor’s Note

A recent article by Tsinghua University researcher Huang Zhen Ping (黄真平), published in Chinese, analyzes the statistics related to foreign NGOs registering in China under the framework of the Overseas NGO Law, which went into effect in January 2017. The article refers to the statistics for the period from January to the end of September 2017. Below you can find our translation of the graphs from the original article, accompanied by our own explanations of the findings.


The registration of ONGOs’ representative offices 


By the end of September, a total of 146 foreign NGOs (国外非政府组织) had established a total of 167 representative offices (it must be remembered that one NGO can establish more than one representative office). Meanwhile, 41 NGOs from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau had established a total of 54 offices. This means that a total of 187 overseas NGOs (境外非政府组织), a designation including any NGO from outside of Mainland China, had established a total of 221 representative offices.


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The table below provides the figures for the number of ONGOs and the number of representative offices for every country and region involved.


No.Country/RegionNumber of Overseas  NGOs%Number of registered representative  offices%
2Hong Kong3217.1%4419.9%
1United States5529.4%5826.2%
3South Korea126.4%167.2%
5United Kingdom63.2%94.1%
14New Zealand10.5%10.5%
21United Arab Emirates10.5%10.5%


The origins of the overseas NGOs by continent


47% of the ONGOs to have registered are from Asia, 32% from North America, 19% from Europe and 2% from Oceania.


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The table below provides the figures for the number of ONGOs and representative offices for every continent.


LocationNumber of ONGOs%Number of registered representative offices%
Asia (including Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao)8847.1%10949.3%
North America6032.1%6429.0%
Asia (excluding Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao)4725.1%5524.9%


The origins of the overseas NGOs by international organizations


This graph looks at how ONGOs are distributed by supranational organizations. It is perhaps not surprising that 129 of the ONGOs come from the G20 countries. What is more striking is that only 2 of the registered ONGOs come from the BRICS group of large emerging economies (obviously excluding China itself). ASEAN is grouped together with South Korea and Japan, as is common practice in China.


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The table below shows the distribution of ONGOs and their Representative Offices by international organizations.


International organizationNumber of ONGOs%Number of registered representative offices%
European countries2111.2%2611.8%
G20 countries12969.0%14967.4%
ASEAN and surrounding countries4624.6%5424.4%
BRICS countries21.1%31.4%
Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)31.6%41.8%
the Belt &Road (B&R) countries84.3%94.1%


The fields of work of the representative offices 


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The most common field of work by far is economics, with 101 representative offices, or 45.7% of the total, that have this field as their official focus. This probably reflects the large number of chambers of commerce and trade organizations that have registered under the Overseas NGO Law.


No.Fields of workNumber of ONGOs%
8Poverty/disaster alleviation3114.0%


Location of activities for representative offices based in cities below the province-level


Out of the total of 221 representative offices, there are 35 whose name makes reference to a city below the provincial level. All the others are tied to the name of a province, or a directly-controlled municipality with equal status to a province, of which there are four: Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing. Looking at the official location of the activities of these 35 representative offices, it can be seen that 18 are responsible for single-province activities, 15 are responsible for cross-provincial activities, and 2 for nationwide activities. This shows that it is possible for a representative office whose name refers to a city below the provincial level to still carry out activities in other provinces and nationally.


No.ProvinceRepresentative offices’ namesNumberLocations of activity
1GuangdongGuangzhou54 cross-province, 1 within-province
Mountain Kun, Suzhou1within China
6HubeiWuhan2cross-province or within-province
9ShandongQIngdao3cross-province, within-province or within China
Total3515.8% of the representative offices in China


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Locations of the representative offices’ activities


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According to the figures regarding the representative offices’ official scope of activities, there is a fairly even distribution between cross-provincial activities (38.5%), single-province activities (31.2%) and nationwide activities (30.3%).


Registrations by month


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As can be seen, a fair number of NGOs registered in January (mostly because they were already registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs), followed by a slowdown in February and March. Registrations picked up again in April and reached a peak in May, followed by a relative slowdown throughout the summer and another increase in September.


Filings of temporary activities


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A total of 296 filings of temporary activities were registered. 131 overseas NGOs and 213 Chinese partner organizations were involved in filing the activities.


The Chinese partner organizations for temporary activities


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Social organizations predominate among the local partner organizations for temporary activities, with 175 (59.1% of the total), followed by Party & people’s organizations with 61 and schools and hospitals with 58.


Fields of work for temporary activities


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Education is the most common field of work under which the temporary activities were filed, with 84 filings, closely followed by “poverty alleviation, disaster relief and assistance to the disabled” with 75 filings.


Locations of the temporary activities


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A majority of the filed temporary activities were limited in their territorial scope, with 218 or 73.6% of the total taking place in just a part or parts of a single province.


Agencies/departments on the list of Professional Supervisory Agencies (PSU)

Out of the 46 agencies and departments mentioned in the list of potential PSUs released by the MPS last December, 12 have already taken on the role of PSU, accounting for 26% of the total. Since then another five agencies or departments not included in the original list have taken on the role of PSUs, bringing the total up to 17.

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The table below shows the distribution of the Representative Offices registered under PSUs belonging to the State Council’s related departments and organizations.


No.DepartmentNumber of ONGOs supervised%Registration sites of representative offices
1Ministry of Civil Affairs1118%92
2The Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries914.8%9
3The State Administration of Press Publication, Radio, Film and Television (Copyright)711.5%7
4State Forestry Bureau69.8%6
5Oversea Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council58.2%11111
6National Health and Family Planning Commission58.2%5
7the State Administration of Grain34.9%3
8Ministry of Environmental Protection34.9%3
9National Development and Reform Commission34.9%3
10Ministry of Education23.3%11
11China National Tourism Administration11.6%1
12China Association for International Understanding11.6%1
13China Disabled Persons Federation11.6%1
14State Post Bureau11.6%1
15General Administration of Sport11.6%1
16State Ethnic Affairs Commission11.6%1
17Ministry of Land and Resources11.6%1



Comparison between State Council and provincial government departments/organizations


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As can be seen, 61 representative offices were established with 17 State Council departments (部门) or units (单位) as their PSUs. 160 representative offices were established with 58 provincial government departments or units as their PSUs. The provincial governments of a total of 24 provinces have provided PSUs.


The table below shows the distribution of PSUs and Representative Offices by province.


ProvinceNumber of provincial level PSUsRelated departmentsTotal number of registered representative offices
Provincial levelState Council
Number of representative offices
Inner Mongolia111


The table below shows the distribution of PSUs and representative offices within the different administrative categories.


No.Professional Supervisory Units (PSU)Number of PSUsNumber of registered representative offices
1Departments of Commerce1795
2Departments of Civil Affairs1028
3Departments of Health and Family Planning922
4Departments of Education913
5Departments of Friendship with Foreign Countries19
6Departments of Forestry38
7Departments of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television17
8Departments of Foreign Affairs11
9Departments of Overseas Chinese Affairs15
10Departments of Poverty Alleviation25
11Departments of Environmental Protection24
12Departments of Development and Reform13
13Departments of Grain13
14Departments of Agriculture22
15Departments of Sports22
16Departments of Culture22
17State Ethnic Affairs Commission11
18Departments of Land and Resources11
19Departments of Technology11
20Departments of Tourism11
21Departments of Post11
22Economic and information systems12
23Departments of Trade Union11
24Departments of Women’s Association11
25Departments of Protection of Disabled Persons11
26Public Institutions11
27Social Organizations11


Locations of the activities of the representative offices registered under PSUs from the State Council departments & organizations


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Out of the representative offices to have a State Council department or unit as their PSU, 37 have the whole of China as their registered field of activities, 20 are cross-provincial, and only 4 are limited to a single province.


The PSUs of the representative offices with nationwide activities


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Taking only the 67 representative offices whose location of activities is registered as being “nationwide”, 37 (or 55.2%) have a State Council department or unit as their PSU. The remaining 30 have provincial-level government departments or units as PSUs, demonstrating that provincial-level government departments can act as PSUs for NGOs with nationwide activities.


The registration site of the representative offices with nationwide activities


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Looking at where the representative offices responsible for nationwide activities are registered, Beijing still takes first place with 36 offices, followed by Shanghai with 24. This suggests that most of the ONGOs engaging in nationwide activities that have a State Council PSU are based in Beijing.

In Brief

A detailed look at the statistics on overseas NGOs registering representative offices and filing temporary activities since the Overseas NGO Law came out. Complete with numerous graphs and tables.
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