Social Protection under Authoritarianism: Health Politics and Policy in China

October 15, 2020

On October 14, 2020, Xian Huang, Assistant Professor of Political Sciencee at Rutgers University joined Qin Gao, Professor of Social Policy and Social Work and director of the China Center for Social Policy for an event: "Social Protection under Authoritarianism: Health Politics and Policy in China."

Why would an authoritarian regime expand social welfare provision in the absence of democratization? Yet China, the world's largest and most powerful authoritarian state, has expanded its social health insurance system at an unprecedented rate, increasing enrollment from 20 percent of its population in 2000 to 95 percent in 2012. Significantly, people who were uninsured, such as peasants and the urban poor, are now covered, but their insurance is less comprehensive than that of China's elite. With the wellbeing of 1.4 billion people and the stability of the regime at stake, social health insurance is now a major political issue for Chinese leadership and ordinary citizens. In this book talk, Xian Huang analyzes the transformation of China's social health insurance in the first decade of the 2000s, addressing its expansion and how it is distributed. Drawing from government documents, filed interviews, survey data, and government statistics, she reveals that Chinese leaders have a strategy of "stratified expansion," perpetuating a particularly privileged program for the elites while developing an essentially modest health provision for the masses. She contends that this strategy effectively balances between elites and masses to maximize the regime's prospects of stability.

Speaker: Xian Huang, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University

Xian Huang is an assistant professor in the Political Science Department at Rutgers University. Her research has focused on the politics of social inequality and redistribution in China. She received B.A. and M.A. from Peking University (Beijing, China) in 2006 and 2008, and Ph.D. in Political Science from Columbia University in 2014. Before joining Rutgers, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for the Study of Contemporary China at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research on Chinese social welfare has appeared in several peer-reviewed journals such as Social Science Research, The China Quarterly, Journal of Contemporary China, and Journal of Chinese Political Science. She is currently working on a book manuscript about the politics and policy of social health insurance in China.

Moderated by: Qin Gao, Professor of Social Policy and Social Work; Director, China Center for Social Policy

This event was co-sponsored by the School of Social Work, the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and the China Center for Social Policy at Columbia University.