Cultural Convergence or Political-economic Institutional Divergence? A Comparative Study of Welfare Reforms in Greater China [Review Article]

Shih-Jiunn Shi, Chung-Yang Yeh, Yuen-wen Ku


In East Asian welfare studies, prevalent culturalist and the developmental state accounts pose the view that East Asia features a homogenous welfare landscape. One could infer that Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong should develop similar welfare institutions and reforms patterns. This paper focuses on the divergent developments of political-economic institutions in Greater China to illustrate how and why these countries step into diverse paths of modernization, and it explores the different configurations of welfare institutions. By charting the institutional changes of post-socialism, post-developmentalism, and post-colonialism, this study elucidates the mechanisms and reasons why social security systems in Mainland China gradually develop alongside occupational divide and regional inequality, while Taiwan is becoming a hybrid welfare system characterized by universalistic and occupational welfare policies, and Hong Kong still features a distinct residualist welfare system. Focusing on political-economic circumstances and social security institutions, the resulting historical analyses highlight the theoretical weaknesses of culturalism and developmentalism and offer a fresh perspective by including China, thus broadening the scope of comparative East Asian welfare studies.


Keywords: China, East Asian Welfare Regime, Hong Kong, Political Economy of Comparative Welfare States, Taiwan


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