chapter  6
15 Pages

Bringing the state back in: the development of Chinese social policy in China in the Hu-Wen Era


Introduction Social policies in post-Mao China have changed dramatically in order to enhance market competition, increase economic effi ciency and accelerate economic growth. Under the guideline of “effi ciency fi rst, equity second”, the post-Mao Chinese leaders began to embrace a new set of market-led policies, such as the creation of a private market, the privatisation of state enterprises, the marketisation of public services and the withdrawal of welfare subsidies. The retreat of the state from areas of education, health, housing, and so on, represents a major departure from the socialist social policy regime practised in Mao’s China. Different conceptualisations have been developed to describe these changes in China’s social policy, such as “marketisation of social welfare” (Guan, 2000), “socialisation of social welfare and services” and “individualisation of social rights” (Wong, 2002). Such changes have brought about negative impacts on the basic livelihood of low-income citizens, mainly unemployed urban people, migrant workers and peasants. The neglect of the basic needs of the ordinary people has invited much social unrest. A social crisis behind the economic prosperity occurred in China (Wang et al. , 2002), and strong appeal to social justice was made by intellectuals. The time for policy change had come at the turn of the new century.