How to Understand Postwar Chinese Welfare Regime?

While Esping-Andersen's three-worlds model provides a pioneering and heuristic typology for comparative study of welfare regime, this article argues that some basic theoretical revisions have to be done in order to reach a better understanding on postwar Chinese welfare regime. The reason for doing so is because Esping-Andersen's analysis is based on historical experience of European capitalist development, which is related with but quite different from Chinese 'welfare capitalism'. In Mao's era, China carried out state-controlled capital accumulation in which people' labor was heavily regulated by the state, rather than market. Although Chinese society was almost completely 'decommodified' under this system, it did not render people social citizenship in the original connotation of Esping-Andersen's decommodification as people's wage and welfare was still heavily controlled and unequally distributed according to the development plan set by the state. This unequal welfare distribution is reinforced by the introduction of 'socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics' after mid-1980s when past public provision of welfare quickly faded and a new market-centric welfare system has not been built up. This sets the background of rapid development of Chinese welfare reform around the turn of the century. By examining Chinese rural medical scheme, this article argues that Chinese welfare regime is a 'conservative' one in the sense that market operation is still heavily governed and welfare provision is unequally distributed and segregated through state policy in pursuit of capital accumulation. 

Full paper download: 2.3.4 Hung-Jeng Tsai.pdf