Urban Social Assistance in China: Transnational Diffusion and National Interpretation

Tao Liu, Li Sun


In 1999 the State Council of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) introduced the Regulation on the Minimum Living Standard Scheme(MLSS, 低保 or dibao) for urban residents in China. Policy learning from different parts of the world significantly shaped the formation and expansion of the MLSS, and Chinese social policy researchers have drawn conclusions about the experiences of these multiple regions. Through expert interviews, we discovered that the Chinese social assistance scheme has been influenced by the US ideas of “social investment” and “workfare.” Furthermore, the European values of “universal entitlement” and “social citizenship” have also been internalised by the Chinese actors behind the scheme. In addition, Hong Kong’s social assistance scheme has inspired Chinese policymakers to explore a model consisting of various categories that target the country’s enormous special welfare needs. Thus, scholars and policymakers from China have used values and ideas outside China to create a hybrid model of social assistance that is characterised by broad coverage, a low benefit level, and a highly provincial administrative structure.

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