When can non-governmental organisations (NGOs) affect government policies in a strong authoritarian Party-state like China? What is the status quo of state-society relations in China in the new century after decades of reform? Based on the literature of interest groups, state-society relations and civil society, this article builds and tests three hypotheses: the government-guided participation, NGO resource and vertical network. These hypotheses are tested through a quantitative study based on survey data. Findings have shown that the government-guided participation hypothesis is well-supported empirically, while the other two hypotheses have limited corroborating evidence. The Chinese political system is therefore still very much authoritarian and closed after more than two decades of reform and an “associational revolution”. It is also likely to follow a corporatist model instead of a pluralist model of state-society relations.