When transnational advocacy meets China: INGO’s strategic norm adaptation

Jie WU, Lin NIE

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review


How do international norms diffuse in culturally heterogeneous and politically conservative environments? This article examines the norm adaptation strategies of international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) in China. Through in-depth interviews with INGO representatives operating in the HIV/AIDS, LGBT, labor, animal rights, and gender-related fields in China, we find that INGOs have developed various norm adaptation strategies in response to local social and political barriers. First, INGOs working with new or low-consensus norms would strategically disregard those norms by not mentioning them during operation to avoid resistance from domestic society. Second, INGOs advocating norms that are inconsistent with the regime often adopt a norm containment approach, limiting the norm’s degree and scope in exchange for operating space to achieve domestic compliance and meet international expectations. Third, INGOs advocating norms consistent with the ruling regime might adopt a norm signaling approach to obtain authorities’ recognition and government support. This article contributes to our understanding of the recent Overseas NGOs Law and its influence on INGOs’ transnational advocacy work in China, and enriches our knowledge of the dynamic norm adaptation process. Copyright © 2021, Chinese University of Hong Kong Press. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-195
JournalChina Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021


Wu, J., & Nie, L. (2021). When transnational advocacy meets China: INGO’s strategic norm adaptation. China Review, 21(4), 171-195.


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