Week 2

Greetings from Beijing! I can’t believe that I have been here for 2 weeks. It feels like I just arrived. Time is likely flying because I have been so busy at work with my latest project.

As I mentioned in my prior post, I am currently researching comparative civil society initiatives. My supervisor wants to know how nonprofits and charity organizations are organized in a number of countries. Right now I am looking at the tax laws in the following countries: Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The goal for this project is to provide my organization with comparative data that it will use when petitioning the Chinese government to pass new laws that encourage charity and non-profit formation.

Based on my present knowledge, it appears that China does not provide tax and other incentives to non-profit organizations. This is not the case in the other countries that I have researched. Indeed, the process of applying for tax-exempt status differs under the laws of Japan (organizations apply to government ministries) and Australia (organizations generally apply to a Charities Council), however, a mechanism exists in both countries for obtaining benefits. All of the countries that I researched provide a significant number of tax incentives to non-profits.

This research has been so exciting because it enabled me to think more critically about the benefits of having a robust non-profit sector. Perhaps the best argument for a strong sector is that non-profits are generally more responsive to on the ground issues than large government agencies. Because they can respond quickly nonprofits are often more effective at administering certain services that require a timely response (legal assistance and medical aid are two great examples). Granted, this is not a hard and fast rule and there are certainly a number of ways that nonprofits can be damaging to a society; some would argue that non-profits delegitimize government by “outsourcing” the provision of services to third parties. Regardless of your opinion on the matter, any developing society should address the role of non-profits. I feel very fortunate to contribute to such a worthwhile cause.

Outside of work, my time has been spent studying Chinese and eating lots of delicious food. I ate Chinese hot pot twice this weekend! I also devoured two bowls of noodles and a really gigantic Chinese donut. My goal for the current week is to find some really spicy Chinese-style fried chicken. I am also looking for a good place to drink a latte in Beijing. I hear good things about the cafes in the 798 art district.