A Complex Society: Social Issues and Social Policy in China

  • Summer schools
  • Academic Partnerships Office
  • Application code LPS-SA202
  • Starting 2018

As China has surfaced as an economic giant in the context of globalization, how this post-socialist country will adjust itself to a profoundly-changed society and strategically respond to the growing social needs remains appealing. In the advanced industrialized democracies, social policy is widely adopted by government to address social issues, such as poverty, health inequality, ageing, unemployment and housing shortage.

In China, social policy didn’t exist as an independent policy arena in the period of planned economy. The economic reform and openness started in the late 1970s created massive impact on social fabric and the trajectories of social welfare and social protection development. As the process of market economy and social transition was accelerated, China has encountered a series of daunting challenge in keeping balance between economic growth and social stability. Although rapid economic growth was seemingly kept as a rare primary source of maintaining its institutional legacy, poverty and income gap, migrant workers and conflicting labour relations, inadequate health infrastructure and health inequality, demographic transition and ageing in an absence of workable pension system have made the contour of modernizing its social welfare and implementing social policy gradually clear and desirable in the context of globalization.

The past decade witnessed an apparent progress of social policy intervention, however, institutional constraints and contained effects in the domain of social policy has ostensibly marked China’s ‘soft power deficit' as a deeper problem. In November, 2012, China has smoothly completed its once-a-decade leadership transition at the 18th National Party’s Congress. For the new generation of Chinese leaders, strengthening institutional design and effectively implementing its long-term strategy of reform (including political reform) becomes a must for building a moderately prosperous society in all respects around 2020.

The two significant events, the Third Plenum and the Fourth Plenum of 18th CCP Congress had marked a new chapter of China’s new socio-economic strategies and ideas of governance toward prosperity and harmony. 2015 will see the 12th Five-Year Plan come to an end, which also means a new national socio-economic development strategy will be formed very soon. And consequently, social policy is expected to being one of top priorities in its national development agenda in the next decade and beyond.

Programme details

Student feedback

"This is a great programme, definitely worth investing your time into." Wang Rong, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, China

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Preparatory Reading List

The list below provides an indication of some of the main recommended texts for the course, but a full reading list and course pack will be provided to registered students approximately six weeks before the beginning of the programme.

  • Chan, C.K., Ngok, K.L. and Phillips, D. (2008). Social Policy in China - Development  and well-being. Bristol: the Policy Press.
  • Davis, D. and Wang, F. (eds.) (2008). Creating Wealth and Poverty in Post-socialist China.  Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Lansdowne, H. and Wu, G. (eds.) (2009). Socialist China, Capitalist China: Social Tension and Political Adaptation under Economic Globalization, London: Routledge.
  • Li, B.Q. & Piachaud, D. (2004) Poverty and Inequality and Social Policy in China. November, London School of Economics, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE), CASEpaper87
  • Lieberthal, K. and Oksenberg, M.  1988.  Policy Making in China: Leaders, Structures, and Processes. 
  • N.J.: Princeton University Press. Murphy, R. (ed.) (2009) Labour Migration and Social Development in Contemporary  China.  London: Routledge.
  • Ngok, K.L. and Chan, C.K.  (eds.) 2015.  China's Social Policy: Transformation and   challenges.  London: Routledge.  Pierson, P. (2004).  Politics in Time: History, Institutions, and Social Analysis.  Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Polanyi, K. (1944). The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of  Our Time. Boston: Beacon Press. Saich, T.  (2008). Providing Public Goods in Transitional China. London:  Palgrave Macmillan. 
  • Shieh, S. and Schwatz, J. (eds.), State and Society: Responses to Social Welfare Needs in China. London: Routledge, 2009. 
  • Tay, W.S. and So, A. (eds.) Handbook of Contemporary China.  London: World  Scientific Publishing. Vogel, E.F.  2013. 
  • Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
  • Xiong, Y.G.  2012.  “Social inequality and inclusive growth in China: the significance of social policy in a new era”, Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, Vol.20, No.3, pp.277-290.
  •  Xiong, Y.G.  2014.  " The unbearable heaviness of welfare and the limits of social policy in China: A historical institutional institutionalism ",  in S. Kuhnle, K. Pauli and Y. Ren (eds.) Reshaping Welfare Institutions in China and the Nordic Countries.  University of Helsinki Press. 
  • Zhao, L.T. and Lim, T.S.  2009.  China's New Social Policy: Initiatives for a Harmonious Society.  Singapore: World Scientific.

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