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Politics and Policy in China's Social Assistance Reform

Providing for the Poor?

Daniel R. Hammond

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An exploration of dibao – China’s minimum income guarantee

Every day in the People’s Republic of China 70 million people receive help from the state through the minimum livelihood guarantee (dibao). What began as a reform in the city of Shanghai in the early 1990s is now a key component in the measures used by the Communist Party of China to maintain social stability and legitimacy. While scholars regularly discuss how effective dibao has been in alleviating poverty very little addresses what influenced its development. This book argues that in order to understand dibao we need to look at how the programme emerged and how it has developed in the years since. Drawing on newspaper articles, government reports and interviews with key officials and researchers, the book also addresses debate on the policy process in China as a whole.

  • Addresses a significant gap in current publications on Chinese social policy in the reform era, namely studies of the dibao programme
  • Using fragmented authoritarianism as the main approach the text engages with topic of social assistance in China as well as bigger questions regarding the policy process in China
  • Uses extensive primary Chinese language sources including newspaper reports, government speeches, government reports, government circulars, and interviews with officials and researchers in China.


Acknowledgements; Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations; Note on Chinese and translations
Introduction: Social Assistance and the Policy Process in Contemporary China
Chapter One: Historical background to Dibao and the question of poverty in China
Chapter Two: Urban Dibao: Emergence and Transition to national policy, 1993 – 1999
Chapter Three: Urban Dibao: The Resolution of Unwanted and Unintended Outcomes, 1999 – 2003
Chapter Four: Rural Dibao: The Countryside and fragmentation
Chapter Five: Institutionalisation? – Achieving Policy in a Fragmented State
Conclusion; Appendix: Interview List; Bibliography

About the Author

Daniel R. Hammond is Senior Lecturer in Chinese Politics and Society at the University of Edinburgh.


This outstanding study of the genesis and evolution of China’s Minimum Livelihood Guarantee will stand as the authoritative English-language source for this policy. Based on incisive interviews with key players and a fine eye for the critical detail in documentary sources, Hammond pulls together the contributions elite politics, state structure, and resources—each of them superbly analyzed--made to the scheme. His public policy approach is brimming with insights into how China operates more broadly.

- Professor Dorothy J. Solinger, University of California, Irvine

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