As China’s Civil Society sector grows into a more sophisticated form, it has become evident that academic research has not kept pace with this development. Apart from legal research, other areas remain very much in the infant stages. Five ways of addressing this could be taken:
1. Creating a vision and roadmap for future developments. This can be done by drawing upon past experiences, but it can in turn only be accomplished if there are sound research practices during the implementation stages to identify and reflect on problems encountered.
2. Dividing research into more specialised areas of study, for example, into the economic, cultural and political branches, which would focus on the public interest sector’s characteristics, marketisation, management, utility, effects and sustainable development in the economic, cultural and political contexts. Doing so would allow for more comprehensive and in-depth research coverage.
3. Maintaining an open mind to new ideas. Developments in the sector are already showing signs of arrested growth, with fixed standards slowly taking shape. At this nascent stage of development, the public discussion arena should not be dominated by just a few key players, nor should the Chinese public interest sector’s approach and standards be limited by the practices of other international organisations. The sector must maintain an open and liberal mind to new ideas, so that potential innovative approaches will not be prematurely forsaken.
4. Putting ideas into practice. The development process can be divided into three stages: theory, implementation and analysis, and lastly using the conclusions drawn to form guidelines for future use. China’s NGO sector is currently in the second stage of this process. However, there is a lack of ongoing reflection in order to better capture and reflect upon problems encountered.
5. Forming of research centres. Although considered unworthy of attention by some, research in this field will prove to be useful for other fields of study.
The author remains optimistic that, with the right attitude and approach, the NGO sector will soon reach a new milestone in its development.