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Social policy in China

Social policy in China: Development and well-being

Chak Kwan Chan
King Lun Ngok
David Phillips
Copyright Date: 2008
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  • Book Info
    Social policy in China
    Book Description:

    This much-needed new textbook introduces readers to the development of China's welfare polices since its conception of an open-door policy in 1978. Setting out basic concepts and issues, including key terms and the process of policy making, it overcomes a major barrier to understanding Chinese social policy. The book explores in detail the five key policy areas of employment, social security, health, education and housing. Each is examined using a human well-being framework comprising both qualitative and quantitative data and eight dimensions: physical and psychological well-being, social integration, fulfilment of caring duties, human learning and development, self-determination, equal value and just polity. This enables the authors to provide not only factual information on policies but also an in-depth understanding of the impact of welfare changes on the quality of life of Chinese people over the past three decades. A major strength of the book lies in its use of primary Chinese language sources, including relevant White Papers, central and local government policy documents, academic research studies and newspapers for each policy area. There are very few books in English on social policy in China, and this book will be welcomed both by academics and students of China and East Asian studies and comparative social policy and by those who want to know more about China's social development.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-959-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of tables and figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of abbreviations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Currency equivalents
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Part 1 Background and framework

    • ONE China’s social policy: background and issues
      (pp. 3-14)

      China is currently experiencing the most stable and prosperous period in its modern history. Before the economic reform of 1978, Chinese people had experienced considerable and prolonged periods of suffering. For many years, Chinese people were ‘subjected to aggression and humiliation’ (Deng, 1984), devastated by civil wars and uprooted by class struggles. In particular, the Cultural Revolution (1966–76) launched by Chairman Mao Zedong, assisted by Lin Biao and the Gang of Four (Jiang Qing, Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan and Wang Hongwen), led to millions of Chinese people being either physically and psychologically tortured or killed because the basic rights...

    • TWO Social policy and well-being
      (pp. 15-26)

      Human well-being has always been a concern of academics, politicians, social activists and the general public. The material on well-being is massive and diverse, and the term ‘well-being’ has ‘many usages, meanings and conceptions’ (Gasper, 2004, p 2). Because conceptualising and measuring quality of life outcomes are still controversial (Bowling, 2005), there is still no single generally accepted method for measuring quality of life (Kind, 1990). This lack of a consensus on human well-being might provide opportunities for unscrupulous politicians selectively to adopt a measure of well-being at the expense of disadvantaged groups. More importantly, people’s quality of life will...

    • THREE Social policy in the context of economic reforms
      (pp. 27-44)

      China’s economic reforms were driven by the desire of Chinese leaders to tackle poor public living conditions and to enhance the political legitimacy of the CCP. Although Chinese leaders reintroduced the market to China’s socialist system, they lacked a blueprint to change its inefficient Soviet-style socialist economic system (Chow, 1999). As a result, China’s economic reforms have been a process of gradual development rather than big changes. The Chinese government’s approach, according to Deng Xiaoping, is ‘crossing the river by groping for stones’ (quoted in Qian and Wu, 2000, p 1). However, the impact of the slow economic reforms have...

    • FOUR The making of social policy in China
      (pp. 45-58)

      Although China has been undergoing large-scale socioeconomic transformation since the late 1970s, its authoritarian state remains largely intact. The party–state polity comprises a dual bureaucracy, with the party apparatus dominant over the government bureaucracy. Being the sole ruling party, the CCP is the real policy maker in China. Under the absolute leadership of the CCP, social policy-making power at the national level is shared by the legislature, the NPC and its Standing Committee, and the SC (China’s cabinet) and its ministries and commissions. According to China’s Constitution, the NPC and its Standing Committee has the power to enact laws...

  8. Part 2 Key policy areas and well-being

    • FIVE Social security policy
      (pp. 61-92)

      A major purpose of the development of social security in China since the 1980s has been to address the unmet societal needs caused by the disbanding of the communes and the reconstruction of SOEs. As pointed out by the SC, ‘with the progress of history, the old labour and social security system had become inadaptable to the requirements of economic and social development’ (Information Office of the SC, 2002). Thus, alternative social security arrangements needed to be established for addressing welfare problems in a mixed economy.

      In China, social security is a broad concept that incorporates a wide range of...

    • SIX Labour policy
      (pp. 93-114)

      As the most populated country in the world, China has always faced huge challenges in the area of labour policy, and the situation has become worse since China’s market transition, which was due to the huge increase in the labour force, the insolvency of the inefficient SOEs and the large scale of rural–urban migration. The key challenge facing China’s labour policy is how to respond to this pressing problem of unemployment. This chapter starts with a brief review of Chinese labour policy prior to the economic reforms, followed by an overview of labour policy changes in the reform era....

    • SEVEN Health policy
      (pp. 115-146)

      Before the era of economic reform, China achieved widely recognised accomplishments in healthcare: central government established a well-organised and efficient health system that provided a low-cost medical service and wide coverage for the general public. However, the economic reforms widened health inequalities, excluding a large number of poorer people from access to basic healthcare. Healthcare reform was criticised by an official report as having ‘failed’ (PTDRC, 2005). Against this background, this chapter examines China’s healthcare measures since 1978 and discusses their impact on the well-being of Chinese citizens.

      The main features of China’s health system during the planned economy were...

    • EIGHT Education policy
      (pp. 147-168)

      Economic modernisation, market-oriented reform, globalisation and the emerging knowledge-based society have dramatically affected China’s education development and policy since the initiation of the economic reforms and the open door policy in the late 1970s. This chapter begins with a brief outline of the contrast between education policies before and after the economic reforms. Following this, education policy changes in the economic reform era are examined in relation to basic education, vocational education and higher education. The final part of this chapter assesses the impact of education policy changes on the well-being of Chinese people. It argues that the combination of...

    • NINE Housing policy
      (pp. 169-192)

      The Chinese government radically changed its perception of housing from a nonproductive welfare service to that of a commodity. Accordingly, various measures were adopted to stop SOEs from building and allocating accommodation for workers. Instead, workers had to satisfy their housing needs in the open market. The Chinese government has recently, however, openly admitted the limitations of the property market in addressing the housing needs of poor people. According to the Minister for Construction Wang Guangtao, the government acted to ensure the provision of housing for poor people, because ‘From our reform and explorations for more than 10 years, we...

  9. Part 3 Conclusion

    • TEN Welfare reforms and well-being
      (pp. 195-226)

      This book has attempted to tackle two core issues: the development of China’s social policy since the beginning of the economic reforms, and the impact of welfare changes on the well-being of Chinese people. Chapters Five to Nine looked at five key welfare policy areas in the context of these economic reforms: social security, labour, health, education and housing. Economic reforms brought about tremendous changes to the lives of thousands of Chinese people, and their achievements could be measured by completely different approaches that lead to various conclusions. In return, these conclusions can affect the welfare approach of a country....

  10. Index
    (pp. 227-234)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 235-235)