Handbook of Welfare in China
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Handbook of Welfare in China

Edited by Beatriz Carrillo, Johanna Hood and Paul Kadetz

The Handbook is a timely compilation dedicated to exploring a rare diversity of perspectives and content on the development, successes, reforms and challenges within China’s contemporary welfare system. It showcases an extensive introduction and 20 original chapters by leading and emerging area specialists who explore a century of welfare provision from the Nationalist era, up to and concentrating on economic reform and marketisation (1978 to the present). Organised around five key concerns (social security and welfare; emerging issues and actors; gaps; future challenges) chapters draw on original case-based research from diverse disciplines and perspectives, engage existing literature and further key debates.
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Chapter 4: The politics of welfare policy: towards social citizenship?

Tony Saich


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.

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