What are the social and political roles of online recreational associations as a kind of civic association in contemporary China? By incorporating governance theory, I reject the dominant image of dyadic and confrontational state-society relationship and propose a symbiotic relationship between the two sides. By tracing the user groups of Neihan Duanzi, an online joking platform, I argue that mutual-help practices are crucial to explain the development of civic agenda of these self-serving groups. Moreover, local government is vital in forming cooperative relationship with capable associations by encouraging or inviting them to play a larger role in public welfare provision. It is the common concern about local governance issues that allows them to form mutually reinforcing interactions, which enables civil associations to further transform into partners of the state in public welfare provision. This case-study thus urges us to reconsider the shared space between state and civic association in maintaining well governance even in an authoritarian regime.