Gung Ho Producer Cooperatives in China

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= Originally founded during the 1930s during the Japanese occupation of China, Gung Ho is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the development of producer cooperatives throughout China.


Robert Ware:

"The International Committee for the Promotion of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives (ICCIC), known as Gung Ho, is a remarkable organization that promotes and supports producer cooperatives throughout China. From its founding, over seventy years ago, Gung Ho has encouraged and sustained - with international support - industrial, agricultural and other cooperatives with training, assessment, and funding and many other services.

Gung Ho, in its contemporary form, was re-registered in 1987, with the Ministry of Civil Affairs as an international non-profit organization. It is a democratically structured organization with Chinese and international members. The members are mostly individuals but some are organizations, cooperatives, and federations. Members establish plans and policies and appoint an executive at their annual general meetings. The organization is now following its second five-year plan for the development of its network and the promotion of cooperatives in China. Its members are principled cooperants; many would regard themselves as socialists.

The name, Gung Ho, uses the Chinese words meaning "working together," and their motto adds "working hard," the meaning of the English word which was derived from the Chinese in the period of the organization's inception." (


Robert Ware on Gung Ho today:

"A very important factor for Chinese cooperatives in general and Gung Ho in particular is the Farmers' Specialized Cooperative Law that was passed by the National People's Congress and promulgated in 2007. The law was the result of interested and dedicated individuals working in the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the parallel policy organization of fraternal democratic parties.

This law in many ways makes the work of Gung Ho easier, as Michael Crook, Gung Ho's dynamic and committed Vice Chair, told me. Cooperatives are now recognized legally and supported politically. Gung Ho can operate in an established network. It is a drawback that the law is limited to agricultural cooperatives, but a major goal of Gung Ho is to promote further laws that would apply to other parts of the economy.

In July 2010, I was accompanied by my old friend Lu Wanru (of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries), a friend of Rewi Alley and a former Vice Chair of Gung Ho, on a visit to the sparse but active headquarters of the organization where I was briefed by Du Yintang, Gung Ho's knowledgeable and efficient Secretary General. (Many Gung Ho activities are outlined in its well maintained website:, where there are discussions of past projects, recent assemblies, and future development plans.)

The 2007 law on cooperatives, as Du explained, allows individual ownership of up to 40% of the shares within the cooperative structure, often skewing the non-hierarchical democratic side of the cooperatives. (Elsewhere, I was told that various government stimulus packages to promote farmers cooperatives have led to some private entrepreneurs masquerading as cooperatives.) Gung Ho has to work around many complexities of contemporary Chinese cooperatives to promote cooperative production and governance by equal participation and votes.

Without strong organizational principles, and sometimes even with them, money biases productive and governing methods. Cooperative work and democratic governance often suffers from such pressures of unequal ownership and the lack of cooperant attention to it. Naturally, Gung Ho has had to struggle with such problems, but the organization has clear principles and is dedicated to fostering genuine cooperatives.

Despite limitations, the law on cooperatives has been important and certainly partially accounts for the dramatic increase of cooperatives in China in recent years. In 2009, there were almost 250,000 agricultural cooperatives in the country as a whole, with about 21 million households. In Beijing alone, there are 3,406 agricultural cooperatives with over 425,000 households. The Ministry of Agriculture, along with other ministries of the central government, has called for demonstration cooperatives with the improvement of democratic management being the priority.


The particular nature of the International Committee for the Promotion of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives (Gung Ho) makes it the ideal organization for developing a strong network of cooperatives across economic sectors throughout China. Its international connections are strong and developing. It is trying now to establish a partnership with fair-trade labeling. It is also trying to promote domestic links, for example with university students in China.

Cooperatives in China are productive experiments within the broader experiments in Chinese-style socialism. They help show that there are alternative economies, but they also show that there can be better work environments and participatory forms of governance in both state and private workplaces." (

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