AbstractThis book explicates the political economy of the transformation of China’s social health insurance in the first decade of the 2000s, addressing the puzzling aspects of its expansion and explaining the political logic and distributive outcome thereof. More generally, it seeks to shed light on the following questions regarding social welfare provisions in authoritarian countries: in the absence of democratic mechanisms, why would authoritarian leaders expand welfare benefits? What are the distributive features and implications of the authoritarian welfare state? How do authoritarian leaders design and enforce social welfare provisions in a multilevel governance setting?
In this book, I argue that expansive social welfare is not necessarily exclusive to democracies; instead, social welfare expansion can be of a result of resilient authoritarianism. But in social welfare expansion, authoritarian leaders face the dilemma of efficiently balancing benefits between elites and the masses to maximize the regime’s survival prospects. When authoritarian leaders concentrate too many benefits on elites, they become vulnerable not only to unrest from the discontented masses but also to threats from the empowered elites. Yet when authoritarian leaders reduce the privileges of elites and empower the masses by universalizing benefits, they risk betraying the very elites on whom they rely to survive politically. The Chinese authoritarian leaders’ solution to this dilemma is to establish an expansive yet stratified social welfare system, perpetuating a particularly privileged provision for the elites while developing an essentially modest provision for the masses.
SubjectsSocial health insurance, Reform, Authoritarianism, China
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