2001 volume 33(10) pages 1853 – 1869

Cite as:
Smart A, Smart J, 2001, "Local citizenship: welfare reform urban/rural status, and exclusion in China" Environment and Planning A 33(10) 1853 – 1869

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Local citizenship: welfare reform urban/rural status, and exclusion in China

Alan Smart, Josephine Smart

Received 24 February 2001; in revised form 6 August 2001

Abstract. After 1949 China's welfare system developed on the basis of a status division between urban and rural residents. Urban and rural societies were profoundly influenced by the respective organization of their welfare systems, which shared the feature of being fixed to specific places (rural) or enterprises (urban). Reform of core institutions is constrained by path dependency. Knowledge of those constraints, however, can aid efforts to shape new paths. In this paper we examine how institutional legacies of urban - rural status differentiation continue to structure economic and welfare reform. China's reform process has been characterized by an unusual degree of decentralization and local experimentation. As a result, the nature of change is not easily seen by examining only laws and policies related to welfare. Instead, broader changes in the economy and the loosening of controls on mobility have interacted with the locality/enterprise welfare systems to generate diverse local outcomes. After an overview of the welfare institutions and the reform process, we draw on field research in industrializing rural areas in Guangdong to describe a pattern we label 'local citizenship' where welfare benefits are elaborated for the locally born while excluding migrants.

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