Social welfare under Chinese socialism : a case study of the Ministry of Civil Affairs
All complex human societies mate social provisions to ensure the wellbeing and security of their citizens and to facilitate social integration. As in other societies, China's formal welfare system is embedded in its social structure and its informal networks of self help and mutual aid. This thesis explores the development of one of China's major welfare bureaucracies - the Ministry of Civil Affairs and the local agencies which it supervises from 1949, with especial reference to the period between 1978 to 1988. The study begins by surveying the theories, both Western and socialist, that purport to explain the determinants of welfare. Richard Rose's welfare mix concept (1986) is modified to yield a framework that posits welfare development in terms of the role of the state, the family, the collective and the traditional culture of welfare. The operational definition in the Chinese context is then set out with reference to the programmes of social amelioration established under the aegis of the Minstry of Civil Affairs in order to assist those social groups that lack the capacity and resources for independent living. Before 1978, Civil Affairs Departments functioned as agencies of last resort, playing a small but vitally important role in meeting the needs of the poorest members of Chinese society. This remains true at the present time. Then policy developments in the current period are analysed in both the national context and in the province of Guangdong, where the economic reforms have gone furthest in reshaping Chinese social life. Emerging from the review is the interaction between social and economic policies, including the impact of the transformation of the institutional context and the changes in broader political objectives. In the final section, attention is drawn to the narrowly residualist character of the Ministry's approach to welfare. Several institutional factors, it is suggested, account for the degree of residualism - the state's narrow conception of the role of statutory welfare, the cultural importance of utilitarian Chinese familism, the all-embracing nature of the collective canopy and the general influence of the cultural legacy. The Chinese welfare system, it is argued, is what it is because it fits the structural requirements of Chinese socialism.