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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Changing Dynamics of Social Policy in the People's Republic of China and the United States of America


Social policy in China and the United States has been undergoing great transformation in recent decades, especially in the interaction between the central government and its subnational units. This article offers an account of the changing dynamics of social policy in both countries in light of the relationship between federalism and the welfare state. Given their federal political institutions, social policy in PRC and USA essentially concerns which government tiers are responsible for social provision. I argue that the fragmented nature of Chinese and American political institutions has led to two distinct social policy developments with their recent decentralization (or devolution) endeavors, with local governments in China gaining more autonomy while the federal government in America retains its prominent role in social provision. Different degrees of local government involvement also create various momentums in social policy that have profound implications for central coordination and local capacity in policy implementation.

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