Value Clashes, Power Competition and Community Trust: Why an NGO's Earthquake Recovery Program Faltered in Rural China

The Version of Record, after refereeing, has been published in the Journal of Peasant Studies, 22 January 2020 DOI 10.1080/03066150.2019.1690470

34 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2020

See all articles by Yanhua Deng

Yanhua Deng

Department of Sociology, Nanjing Universtiy

Kevin J. O'Brien

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science

Date Written: December 3, 2018

Abstract

NGOs in China cannot operate successfully and achieve their goals if they lose the trust of the community they seek to serve. In the wake of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, an environmental NGO lost the support of villagers and grassroots leaders partly because of poor communication and limited responsiveness to community concerns. But better downward accountability would only have exposed a deeper mismatch in goals and aspirations. Villagers and village cadres did not want what the NGO had on offer and the NGO, as a value-driven organization, was handcuffed by its mission. This article examines tensions over home reconstruction, organic agriculture, eco-tourism, self-governance, embroidery workshops and local elite displacement to highlight the importance of trust and value clashes when studying how a rural collaboration with an NGO can collapse. It is also a cautionary tale about community power. Villagers and grassroots cadres had the ability to thwart an NGO and drive it out, but theirs was the power to frustrate and block, not to make their dreams of development real.

Keywords: trust, peasants, disaster recovery, downward accountability, organizational mission

JEL Classification: Q54,

Suggested Citation

Deng, Yanhua and O'Brien, Kevin J., Value Clashes, Power Competition and Community Trust: Why an NGO's Earthquake Recovery Program Faltered in Rural China (December 3, 2018). The Version of Record, after refereeing, has been published in the Journal of Peasant Studies, 22 January 2020 DOI 10.1080/03066150.2019.1690470, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3525458 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3525458

Yanhua Deng

Department of Sociology, Nanjing Universtiy ( email )

No. 163, Xianlin Avenue, Qixia
Nanjing, Jiangsu 210023
China

Kevin J. O'Brien (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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