Scholarship on Chinese civil society has produced rich empirical studies, but there have been few attempts to theorize the empirical knowledge acquired. Moreover, the question of how to conceptualize the political agency of civil society in a non-democratic context has received limited systematic attention. In this conceptual article, we draw on a discursive approach to politics to analyse the political agency of Chinese civil society. Our analysis is based on synthesizing insights gained through three separate research projects. We propose a conceptual framework which focuses on how civil society actors position themselves within a structured political space, how they represent social groups and issues through advocacy, how they care for these groups, and how they engage in processes of identity formation. Taken together, these four modalities constitute a framework for analysing the different political dimensions of civil society agency.