Though volunteers and volunteer organizations have flourished only recently in China, the ideas of doing good and accumulating merit and taking pleasure in helping others can be traced to ancient times. A long time ago, Chinese Confucians always advocated such ideas as extending the respect of the aged in your family to those of other families, and extending the love of the children in your family to those of other families. Such ideas in China's traditional culture are moral concepts widely held in esteem, and deeply rooted in the hearts of the people, becoming norms followed by the people to conduct themselves in the society. Traditional Chinese virtues not only have much in common with the volunteerism of Dedication, Fraternity, Mutual-aid and Progress but also have provided a profound historical background and cultural foundation for later volunteer campaigns.
Volunteerism and volunteer activities in China may be traced back to the time before the implementation of the policy of reform and opening-up. Starting from the mid-1960s, due to its international responsibility as a socialist country towards other third-world countries, China began providing extensive international aid, including military and economic assistance, to many developing countries in Asia and Africa. To go with this assistance, the Chinese government dispatched a large number of voluntary personnel to participate in relevant services in foreign countries.
Since the 1980s, the concept of volunteer with its history of more than 100 years in European countries and their colonies began to be introduced into China. After the practice of reform and opening-up, the earliest Chinese volunteers began to make their appearance in community services, and community volunteer organizations were gradually established. In the early period of the 1990s, another volunteer group emerged within the Communist Youth League system, and their national volunteer organization, the Chinese Youth Volunteers Association was established. Subsequently, the movement of youth volunteers rapidly expanded all over the country through the Communist Youth League system.
At present, these two groups of community volunteers and youth volunteers are the most active, as influential volunteers on the largest scale in China. Both of them have their own organizational system, and some connection with governmental organizations. Therefore, there are now basically three types of voluntary service organizations in China: community volunteer organizations, youth volunteer organizations, and non-governmental organizations or NGOs for short.