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Palgrave Macmillan

The Political Economy of Making and Implementing Social Policy in China

  • Book
  • © 2021


  • Explores the institutional factors in social policymaking and implementation in China
  • Argues that a bureaucratic incentive structure has led to a fragmented welfare system in China
  • Covers the development of China’s pensions and social assistance programs

Part of the book series: Social Policy and Development Studies in East Asia (SPDSEA)

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Table of contents (8 chapters)


About this book

This book explores the institutional factors in social policymaking and implementation in China. From the performance evaluation system for local cadres to the intergovernmental fiscal system, local policy experimentation, logrolling among government departments, and the “top-level” design, there are a number of factors that make policy in China less than straightforward. The book argues that it is bureaucratic incentive structure lead to a fragmented and stratified welfare system in China. Using a variety of Chinese- and English-language sources, including central and local government documents, budgetary data, household surveys, media databases, etc., this book covers the development of China’s pensions, health insurance, unemployment insurance, and social assistance programs since the 1990s, with a focus on initiatives since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Providing a deeper understanding of policymaking and implementation in China, this book interests scholars of public administration, political economy, Asian politics, and social development.


“The book would have benefited from a firmer hand in terms of editing regarding the presentation of these visualizations. For the more general reader … Qian’s book will offer either a good introduction or the kind of to-the-point summary that will refresh their understanding.” (Daniel Hammond, The China Quarterly, December 4, 2023)

“It is a valuable handbook for those who are interested in the changes in social policies over time and the bureaucratic politics involved. … It is commendable that Qian takes on such a challenge and shows us the interesting dynamics and multifaceted reality of policies that concern everyday Chinese citizens. This intellectual endeavor invites further discussions on the loci of power and possibilities for reform.” (Juan Wang, The China Journal, Vol. 89, January, 2023)

“The book is encyclopedic in scope and includes an exceptional level of detail, including careful attention to overlooked policies and much-needed updates. This book is an invaluable resource for any student or scholar of social policy in China.” (Kerry Ratigan, Journal of Chinese Political Science, December 15, 2022)

“The book is a valuable addition to the literature on the Chinese social protection system … . It is clearly written and presented and will be of great assistance in explaining the structure of the Chinese system to students.” (Mel Cousins, LSE Review of Books,, January 26, 2022)

Authors and Affiliations

  • National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore

    Jiwei Qian

About the author

Jiwei Qian is a senior research fellow at the East Asia Institute, National University of Singapore. His research has been published in leading journals including The China Quarterly, Journal of European Social Policy, Journal of Social Policy, Public Choice, Social Policy and Administration, and Social Science & Medicine among others

Bibliographic Information

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