Chair of Contemporary Chinese Studies University of Würzburg
Christina Maags (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London)
For over a decade, the Chinese party-state has embarked on a mission to increase supply of social care services for its rapidly growing elderly population. Given the urgent challenges, since the late 1990s the central government has published reports, policies and action plans and invested heavily in elder care. While the central government emphasizes building up care facilities and services at the community level, especially since 2013 it also moved to open up the sector for private investments to develop it into an “elder care industry”. Thus, we observe a two-pronged approach that rests on community-building and commercialization simultaneously. At the local level, these initiatives prompted a multitude of experiments and diverging models of service provision. Yet, the development of elder care services has been unbalanced and continues to be insufficient. This is particularly obvious when regional and rural—urban differences are taken into account. This paper presents an in-depth analysis of the current state of elder care service provision based on national-level statistics and a comparative case-study of first- and second-tier localities based on multi-site fieldwork conducted by the two authors in collaboration. Interviews were conducted with experts, relevant government officials and service providers of various types (state/private; for-profit/non-profit). The paper explores the paradoxes in service provision that stem from different local state strategies to adjust the welfare mix in urban China's elder care.