Handbook on East Asian Social Policy
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Handbook on East Asian Social Policy

Edited by Misa Izuhara

Dramatic socio-economic transformations over the last two decades have brought social policy and social welfare issues to prominence in many East Asian societies. Since the 1990s and in response to national as well as global pressure, there have been substantial developments and reforms in social policy in the region but the development paths have been uneven. Until recently, comparative analysis of East Asian social policy tends to have focused on the established welfare state of Japan and the emerging welfare regimes of four ‘Tiger Economies’. Much of the recent debate indeed preceded China’s re-emergence onto the world economy. In this context, this Handbook brings China more fully into the contemporary social policy debates in East Asia. Organised around five themes from welfare state developments, to theories and methodologies, to current social policy issues, the Handbook presents original research from leading specialists in the fields, and provides a fresh and updated perspective to the study of social policy.
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Chapter 11: Ethnocentrism, the developmental state and East Asian welfare

Alan Walker and Chack-kie Wong


The origins of this chapter lie in a series of joint critiques of the Western bias in comparative social policy studies (Walker and Wong, 1996, 2004, 2005). We argue that welfare states have been constructed as a capitalist-democratic project and welfare state regimes should not be seen as being unique to Western capitalist societies with a political democracy: ‘[i]f state production of welfare is a universal phenomenon, then the policies and institutions of non-western societies should be included in comparative theories and typologies’ (Walker and Wong, 1996: 88). The debate about the classification or typologies of the welfare state originated from Esping -Andersen’s seminal work The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism, in which a welfare regime is understood in terms of the complex socio-political, legal and organizational features that are systematically interwoven in the relationship between the state and the economy as well as between the state and society (Esping-Anderson, 1990: 2). Thus welfare regime types are the result of social settlements among capital, labour and state actors. This postulation of welfare development is essentially society-led, driven by political democracy essentially seeking a truce between capital and labour. However, this is unlikely to be the case for welfare development and welfare regimes in some East Asian countries such as China, Singapore and colonial Hong Kong, which are predominantly state-led.

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