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Manipulating China’s “Minimum Livelihood Guarantee”

Political Shifts in a Program for the Poor in the Period of Xi Jinping
Dorothy J. Solinger
p. 47-57


In 1999, the State Council set forth an urban social assistance program aimed chiefly at pacifying protesting laid-off workers and compensating for the breakdown of the work-unit-based welfare benefits that had obtained under the planned economy. While an initial goal was to ensure the political stability that would allow enterprise reform to proceed unchallenged, over time the content of the scheme shifted in line with new regime goals. First the program spread to the countryside, as the New Socialist Countryside model was installed. In the past few years, in line with a tightening of financial commitment, leaders have demanded that the able-bodied poor should work, not be succoured, and that the program’s allowances target the desperate. Also, beginning in 2014 and continuing into 2016 there has been heavy emphasis on fighting graft and corruption in the program. The paper details five alterations that have emerged – or policy slants for which earlier, less extreme changes in implementation have intensified – since Xi Jinping ascended to power. The big message here is that the regime has repeatedly reshaped this initiative to match the changing political agenda of the Party.

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Bibliographical reference

Dorothy J. Solinger, « Manipulating China’s “Minimum Livelihood Guarantee” », China Perspectives, 2017/2 | 2017, 47-57.

Electronic reference

Dorothy J. Solinger, « Manipulating China’s “Minimum Livelihood Guarantee” », China Perspectives [Online], 2017/2 | 2017, Online since 01 June 2018, connection on 21 November 2019. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/chinaperspectives.7342

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About the author

Dorothy J. Solinger

Dorothy J. Solinger is Professor Emerita of Political Science at the University of California, Irvine.School of Social Sciences, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697 (

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