Dynamics of Chinese Social Policy: Interplay of National and International Influences

Dynamics of Chinese Social Policy: Interplay of National and International Influences

Grant Applicants:
Prof. Tao Liu (IN-EAST, University of Duisburg-Essen)
Prof. Tobias ten Brink (Department of Social Sciences and Humanities, Jacobs University Bremen)

Tao Liu Thumb
     Tobias Ten Brink Thumb

Further team members:
Yuxin Li (IN-EAST, University of Duisburg-Essen)
Armin Müller (Jacobs University Bremen)
Tong Tian (IN-EAST, University of Duisburg-Essen)

Funded by Deutsche Forschungs-Gemeinschaft (DFG), Project No. 374666841
Sonderforschungsbereich SFB 1342: Globale Entwicklungsdynamiken von Sozialpolitik
Funding period: 2018 to 12/2021

Since the 1990s and especially since the mid-2000s, China has been implementing the largest social policy project in its history, subject to limited attention from the West. Although Chinese social policy is largely based on its own traditions, its emergence and expansion have been influenced by international interdependencies of various origins. The project’s central question is the following: How have these internal and external influences affected and shaped Chinese social policy and which mechanisms were involved? The period under review covers the years between 1990 and 2020.

The first phase of the project has two aims: Firstly, a comprehensive reconstruction of the developmental dynamics in the three important policy fields of old-age provision, healthcare and unemployment insurance will be conducted. Secondly, we will explain the different dynamics in these fields by identifying the interplay of international and national influencing factors that are responsible for the variance in spread, degree of inclusion and generosity. Here we will examine the mechanisms by which international interdependencies affect the national development of social policy, in particular the evolution of ideas and the choice of models and programmes. The project will combine insights from the literature on diffusion with institutionalist policy analysis. The case studies will be analysed using a method mix comprising process tracing and quantitative techniques. While we will collect data from Chinese databases and interviews with experts, we will also evaluate archive material and conduct a content analysis of secondary literature. Our findings should lead to a greater understanding of this case of an expansion of social policy under autocratic conditions, which is of particular interest for international comparisons.

In the second phase we will, among other questions, investigate whether the current reforms of the hukou system, which disadvantages the rural population, are leading to an alignment of rural and urban social security systems. We will also assess how internal and external factors interact in the recently locally tested long-term care insurance. In this context, we will take a comparative look at the East Asian region, since long-term care insurance has already been introduced (Japan, South Korea) or tested (Taiwan) there. Finally, we ask in a “South-South” perspective whether China’s social policy is a role model for other countries of the Global South.

Link to project website

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