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LPS-SA202: A Complex Society: Social Issues and Social Policy in China

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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.

This course is mainly designed to meet academic interests of undergraduate and postgraduate-level students and the professionals who are willing to embark an intellectual journey with the course lecturer in probing and examining the complex relationship between social issues and social policy responses in contemporary China. The main objectives of this course are:

  •  First, describe and discuss major challenges to social development in China in the context of globalization and urbanization
  • Second, interpret and argue on different theoretical lens of understanding the formation of China’s pathways in social policy-making and implementation
  • Third, analyze and explain the newly-emerged social issues and social policy responses in China
  • Fourth, elaborate and reflect on the future direction of social change and social policy in China.

Full course outline

About the Instructor


Professor Yuegen Xiong is professor in the Department of Sociology at Peking University, China. He is the author of Needs, Reciprocity and Shared Function: Policy and Practice of Elderly Care in Urban China (Shanghai Renmin Press, 2008) and Social Policy: Theories and Analytical Approaches (Renmin University Press, 2009).

He was the British Academy KC Wong Visiting Fellow at the University of Oxford during November 2002- September 2003, the Fellow at the Hanse Institute for Advanced Study (HWK), Delmonhorst, Germany during December 2003- February 2004 and the JSPS Fellow at the University of Tokyo in October, 2005. 

In the past years, he has published extensively in the field of social policy, comparative welfare regimes, social work, NGOs and civil society. He is the executive editor of China Journal of Social Work (Routledge)and editorial member of Asian Social Work and Policy Review (Wiley) and Asian Education and Development Studies (Emerald).