In relation to economic growth and political liberalization, the emergence of a civil society is one of the most significant social transformations which has taken place in Taiwan since the 1980s. The development of the non-profit sector has embarked on a new and unprecedented phase. This process is a dynamic component of social change and offers an interesting perspective on the emergence of a 'civil society', a concept sure to trigger off debate among scholars when applied to Chinese and/or Taiwanese contexts (Huang 1993; Ma 1994). While the legal framework and historical background of civic bodies are both highly relevant to law and political science, studying the working methods of these organizations in daily life, human relationships, team building and networking at a micro-social scale is highly consistent with an anthropological approach. Social organizations have the capacity to access those margins of society government bodies cannot easily reach. This process allows the state to delegate the management of politically sensitive social issues. Although the government has been slow to act in launching a national offensive, a modern AIDS campaign has gradually taken shape with the help of the non-profit sector-secular and religious organizations 2 -working in conjunction with official bodies.
I have done ethnographic fieldwork in Taipei. For that purpose, official bodies as well as social organizations involved in AIDS prevention and care, were approached. 3 I visited regularly the service in charge of PWA/HIVs (People living with AIDS/HIV) in the Taipei hospitals appointed by the government, and worked with two secular social organizations involved in the fight against AIDS. This approach enables me to be a participant-observer, to know and interview activists from diverse social categories, social workers, journalists showing an interest in AIDS-related issues, people suffering from HIV/AIDS, health personnel in medical institutions and in officials working in health bureaus or in the headquarters of the DoH. The following topics will be discussed in this paper: The emergence of a civil society is investigated through an analysis of the development of the non-profit sector and the working methods of local NGOs. Specific questions related to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, a sensitive health issue, have shed an original light on the debate about civil society: official responses