Social Protection under Authoritarianism: Health Politics and Policy in China

Author
Xian Huang
Content Type
Video
Institution
Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University
Abstract
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.
Topic
Democratization, Government, Health, Authoritarianism, Political stability
Political Geography
China, Asia
External Resources