China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Who Gets What and Why? Social Construction and Housing Policy Design in China

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Washington Room 6, Exhibit Level

A growing literature has contributed to unravelling policy processes in China, but little has been done to explain why the government has applied different policies to different social groups or who gets what and why in social policy areas. This research tries to fill this gap by applying a framework of thesocial construction of target groups and policy design to the housing policy in China. Despite changing from ‘the advantaged’ to ‘contenders’, civil servants have continued to benefit from housing policies; while migrant workers, whose social image has been transformed from ‘deviant’ to ‘reliant’, are still barely benefiting from even policies that clearly stipulate providing housing to them. Some argue that changing social image has affected policy design. But policy changes do not necessarily produce intended policy outcomes. Reasons could be attributed to the power structure in which the bureaucrats monopolize power and migrants are politically excluded. This particular political power structure leads to selective policy implementation that favors civil servants while preventing migrant groups from gaining benefits.  It also suggests that social construction is subject to government control in an undemocratic society and the improvement of the social image of a certain social group does not mean that it possesses more political influence, and thus can gain more.By testing the applicability of the framework of social construction of target group and policy design in China, this research contributes to both policy studies and China studies.

Diwen Xiao

Harvard-Yenching Institute, Massachusetts

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