Reform and Stability – The Russian and the Chinese Welfare Systems Compared

In: Russian Politics
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  • 1 University of Helsinki
  • | 2 Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki
  • | 3 University of Bergen and Hertie School of Governance
  • | 4 Institute of Sociology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS)

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Systematic theoretical work on Russian and Chinese social policy seems to be lacking. While previous research establishes how democratic systems produce welfare, it is unclear what kind of welfare such transitional systems provide. Our analysis adheres to structuration based theoretical explanations, taking into account both agency and structure as factors needed to explain these regimes’ welfare policy. Hybrid regimes are eager to adopt global liberally oriented welfare policies, which tend to ignore popular demands. Western analysis of Russian and Chinese social policy emphasizes the dualistic influence of liberal versus statist social policy. This dualistic conceptualization fails to take into account the contradictions between ideological frames and hybrid regimes’ vulnerability to popular pressures. Widespread corruption undermines formal procedures and underlies growth of informal practices. Both Russia and China have considerable welfare achievements and vast problems. In conditions of economic growth, both have experienced huge increases in inequality and individualization of risk.