The moralization of philanthropy in China: NGOs, voluntarism, and the reconfiguration of social responsibility

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Neo-liberalism shifts social responsibility to individuals. The practice of neo-liberal governmentality in China confirms this worldwide trend. This is evident when government retreats from the responsibilities of providing social welfare for rural migrant workers and leaves them to privately funded philanthropy programmes. However, the Chinese case also presents an anomaly in that the shifting of responsibilities under neo-liberalism results not only in individualization, but also in mutual obligations created by moralization. This article explores philanthropy programmes in migrant settlements in contemporary Beijing within a larger neo-liberal context. It provides an ethnographic account of the moralization process informed by the culturally specific notion of aixin (爱心), or loving heart. I argue that moralization within philanthropy programmes is crucial in reconfiguring the modes of responsibility in post-socialist China. Here, social obligations and consolidation of old hierarchies and social inequalities go hand in hand with social individualization.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-87
Number of pages20
JournalChina Information
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • compassion
  • migrant workers
  • neo-liberalism
  • NGOs
  • philanthropy
  • responsibility

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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