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Does the Economic Decline of the West and the Rise of China Encourage NGO Crackdown?  

Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 2022, Vol. 51(2): 429–443.

Christopher Adolph and Aseem Prakash

Laws restricting foreign funding to domestically operating nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have proliferated in developing countries. This is puzzling because Western powers support the norm that NGOs are critical for democracy and development, recommend governments partner with NGOs, and sometimes use trade sanctions to encourage adherence to this norm. We examine whether rising trade with China influences the onset of NGO restrictions. China, which has emerged as an important export destination, articulates a different norm of state sovereignty over NGOs and does not sanction developing countries that enact restrictive NGO laws. Analysis of 153 developing countries from 2000–2015 finds that increasing exports to China may double the risk of NGO crackdown, but only when accompanied by declining exports to Western democracies. NGO scholars should recognize there are multiple norms about state-NGO relationship and that norm acceptance is influenced by the economic clout of the power that espouses a particular norm.

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