T03P10 - Political Economy of Social Policy Reform in China

Topic : Policy and Politics sponsored by Policy & Politics Journal

Panel Chair : Qian Jiwei - jiwei.qian@nus.edu.sg

Objectives and Scientific Relevance of the panel

In this panel a selection of papers may be considered for the Policy & Politics journal.



Government social expenditure has increased very fast in China since early 2000’s. The amount of government expenditure on three major areas, social security and social assistance, education and health care, increased by an average annual rate of 21.4 per cent between 2003 and 2013. 


The size and huge variations of the country together with the dramatic experiences of economic development in the last six decades make China standing out as a very interesting case in social policy reform. On the one hand, there are significant portions of legacies of central planning system in the current welfare system. On the other hand, given the sheer size of China, regional differences in economic and social conditions are huge. In this case, having a better understanding of the changes and evolution of the Chinese social welfare system from the perspective of the political economy can be highly value-added to the existing social policy literature.


In this context, there are also several features in the recent round of the social policy reforms in China. First, while the spending on social areas has been increased very fast, financial coverage for many social programmes are still not sufficient enough. The quality of public services is still relatively low. Second, the welfare system is fragmented among different regions, between rural and urban areas and also between formal and informal sectors. Third, in some policy areas, policy initiations to expand coverage of social programmes can be very flexible and the expansion of welfare programmes can be achieved in a dramatically rapid speed. However, in some other policy areas, the policies and institutions are resilient and there are almost no significant changes in the recent decades.


This panel makes an attempt to understand social policy reforms in China from the perspective of political economy. Political institutions, incentives of political players as well as policy capacity have played important roles in the social policy making and implementation.  The welfare system can vary in locations, in policy areas and also be path dependent. This panel is going to discuss the dynamics of the Chinese welfare system from the political and economic institutions. 

Call for papers

Theoretical, empirical and policy papers from the perspective of political economy in all social policy areas in China are welcomed.  Topics may include but are not limited to:

  1. Education policy, education financing
  2. Health reform, health policy
  3. Social Security Reform
  4. Social assistance 
  5. Poverty alleviation
  6. Housing policy, affordable housing
  7. Unemployment insurance and employment policy
  8. Other social policy areas
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