In a short essay published by the China Policy Institute at the University of Nottingham on December 11, I observed how corporate social responsibility and corporate governance are two key dimensions of “social credit”. I further observed how the use of lists, rankings, KPIs, standards, punishment-and-reward systems is neither new, nor exclusive to China.
Aside from these commonalities, differences exist between approaches to CSR in “the West”, and those followed in the PRC. One of the biggest differences involves the management and control of CSR efforts in China by the centre of political authority and legitimacy, and their exercize through multi-stakeholder initiatives involving state and private actors.
This approach to CSR is the most natural consequence of the relationship between Party and State in China. In fact, the role of the Party in driving CSR initiatives has been acknowledged by the 2008 SASAC Guidelines on Corporate Social Responsibility, by article 19 of the Company Law of the People’s Republic of China, and by several other legal documents available on this website.
Corporate social responsibility approaches and initiatives are shaped and influenced by contextual factors. A more nuanced understanding of CSR in China therefore, ought to be premised on deeper politological, economic, sociological analyses of the structural elements and circumstances forming the basic setting of CSR.
One of these structural elements – very well known to China watchers but somewhat ignored by scholars of CSR – is given by Party groups. Established in private and public enterprises (besides NGOs, educational institutions, state organs etc.) Party groups have been playing a fundamental role in promoting CSR efforts in private enterprises.
Reflecting the dual structure of the Chinese polity, these organizations are regulated not by the state law, but by the Chinese Communist Party. One of the most important regulations – with on-going annotations and references – is presented below.
Communist Party of China Regulations on Party Groups (For Trial Implementation)
16 June 2017
Chapter I. General Principles
Article 1. The Present Regulations are enacted in accordance with the “Constitution of the Communist Party of China”, to further regulate the work of Party groups, strengthen and improve Party leadership, raise the Party’s governing capability, and give full play to the core leadership role of the Party in being in full control of the overall situation, and in coordinating all entities.