As China has expanded the scope and role of the market within its economy and society, the job security of its citizens and workers has been undermined by the associated dismantling of the old system of social insurance (the ‘iron ricebowl’) that prevailed through the period of command socialism. Consequently the government has begun the construction of a social protection regime that is suited to a market economy. This is a process which the state recognizes needs to be managed with care and sophistication if social stability and a high growth rate are to be sustained. It is also recognized by the government that it is important to have a clear understanding of how the reforms are perceived by the population. Recognition of this need and a genuine concern for the plight of the dispossessed has induced both Chinese and international scholars to monitor closely how the broad population and strategic elements within the community are perceiving the reforms. Underpinning this sensitivity is also an awareness that perceptions affect how individuals and groups cope when confronted with fundamental changes to practices and institutions central to their needs. Shanghai has been an important focus for those undertaking research related to perceptions because the city’s administrators have played a pioneering role in the development of the emergent social protection regime.