Setsuko Matsuzawa

Wooster Professor Offers New Theory on Transnational Advocacy by Foreign NGOs in China

Setsuko Matsuzawa’s book, “Activating China,” explores foreign NGOs’ impact on local actors in China

WOOSTER, Ohio – Setsuko Matsuzawa, associate professor of sociology and anthropology and East Asian studies at The College of Wooster, proposes a new theory of transnational advocacy and examines the impact foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have on the Chinese state in her book, Activating China: Local Actors, Foreign Influence, and State Response, published earlier this year by Routledge.

In Activating China, Matsuzawa challenges the viewpoint that global forces shape local outcomes by examining the effects of social and environmental advocacy of foreign NGOs in China. Using three case studies—China’s first participatory development project, its first successful case of transnational anti-dam activism, and its first national park project—her fieldwork in China and archival work in the U.S. reveals insights into the influence of Chinese activists, researchers, and government officials.

“My research aims to reconceptualize global-local relations by emphasizing the relational dynamics between local actors and foreign NGOs,” Matsuzawa explained. “It also highlights China’s center-periphery relations and debunks the myth of China as a monolithic nation by showing that local actors—researchers, activists, and government officials—exhibit entrepreneurial and opportunistic behaviors in order to pursue their own agendas and/or empower themselves.”

Matsuzawa, whose book theme stemmed from China’s “Overseas Law in 2017, which governs foreign NGOs and the resurgence of state rhetoric on foreign influence under Xi Jinping’s party-state leadership since 2012,” concludes that global projects are frequently and substantially revamped by local actors.

“Taking advantage of their access to the global discourses and conceptualizing them in ways that benefitted themselves, local actors often evaded the original intentions of not only their foreign collaborators but even the Chinese central government,” she said.

Routledge is the world’s leading academic publisher in the humanities and social sciences, and Matsuzawa’s book is part of “The Mobilization Series on Social Movements, Protest, and Culture.”