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A Critical Analysis of China’s Official Policy Discourse on Welfare Services for the Elderly

Authors: Mengyuan Chen*,
Topics: Asia, China, China
Keywords: aging; discourse; critical analysis; welfare policy
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Challenges posed by an aging population are on China’s doorstep. However, relevant research is limited in Chinese academia, and what research there is frequently cites confusing terms in the government’s policy rhetoric. In international literature, it is problematic to find a literal translation or even the closest equivalent of these terms. Overcoming this language barrier requires scholars to move beyond the linguistic domain to understand the institutional context behind it. To understand the Chinese context, we provide a framework with three layers, namely welfare regime (macro level), governance (meso level) and community-based provision (micro level). First, China has a productivist welfare regime, which indicates a distinctive power constellation that is different from that in the West. Second, there is no clear mandate to guarantee coordinated governance because the national agenda is eclipsed by a broad and ambiguous concern. Worse still, this ambiguity is used strategically to allow creativity for contextual appropriateness. Third, China employs a state-led community-based strategy. It regards the community, not the client, as the minimum level of operation to provide welfare. An empirical study of a textual sample offers concrete evidence to validate our arguments. This article presents guidelines to understand a context that has ‘Chinese characteristics’.

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