Dissertation Abstract

At the center of China’s rapid economic growth are the nearly 300 million migrants who have come from rural areas to work in urban factories. Despite their vital role in China’s rise, government policies have created many social, economic, and legal problems for this population. In response, a small but growing number of Chinese have started NGO programs to improve migrants’ access to legal aid, education, and sense of community. In a country with such a state-dominated society, this type of non-governmental activity takes on particular significance. Based on 70-weeks of ethnographic fieldwork, and a review of relevant literature, this dissertation analyzes the decision-making of the founders/directors of migrant-focused nongovernmental organizations in order to: (1) understand the political, economic, and sociocultural factors that influence their programs; (2) explore how these factors fit within the broader context of China’s economic development; (3) broaden literature on the role of the state in nongovernmental activity, and (4) provide insights into changing state-society relations in the transition to capitalism.

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