Policy development is analyzed in light of two key factors: changing support for core groups, and how the leadership assesses and responds to perceived risk. This framework is used to understand the political economy of welfare reform in China, and how policy has been used to consolidate and perpetuate State, in reality Chinese Communist Party (CCP), power. In so doing the chapter raises the question of whether welfare policy is becoming more inclusive. We outline a four-period categorization of welfare policy since 1949. The reforms introduced after 1980, combined with policy neglect and a naïve faith in the market, led to a breakdown of the workplace-based system established after 1949. The initial response (1996–2002) centered on shoring up support within urban China, despite the dramatic impact policy had on those living in rural China. A more inclusive approach has been taken since 2002, both in terms of support for those in the countryside and for the rapidly expanding numbers of migrant workers. While China’s welfare system shares certain features with other Asian polities, there is no single system for public service delivery, and the outcomes are marked by greater inequalities of service provision. We conclude that while recent policy trends indicate moves towards a welfare system based on the notion of citizenship, a welfare policy based on this alone remains far off: migrants are still significantly disadvantaged, as are those who remain in the countryside. Urban bias remains strong, and government officials and party workers remain a privileged elite.
This research review provides critical insights into the most important debates surrounding the governance of contemporary China. The material will enable readers to understand how China is ruled, how participation and protest are regulated by the authorities, and the relationship between the Central state and its local agencies. Spanning the most important areas of the subject, the chosen articles explore the study of Chinese politics, the nature of the Chinese political system, the policy-making process, the nature of the local state, participation and protest, and authoritarian resilience or democratization.