Accepted paper:

Technologies of authoritarian statecraft in welfare provision: contracting services to NGOs in China


Jude Howell (LSE)
Regina Enjuto Martinez (London School of Economics and Political Science)
Yuanyuan Qu (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues that in pursuing an agenda of enhanced welfare provision and social stability, the state seeks to shape the direction of civil society. Using technologies of state-craft it seeks to foster a service-oriented civil society and stymie rights-based and politically sensitive groups.

Paper long abstract:

In 2013 the Chinese government rolled out a nationwide programme of procurement of welfare services to NGOs. This required modifying the constrictive regulatory framework governing civil society organisations to make it easier for NGOs to register. We argue that in encouraging NGOs to apply for procurement contracts for the provision of particular services, the government sought to shape the development of civil society in China. In particular it sought to foster a service-oriented civil society that served the instrumental purposes of the state. These purposes were twofold: first, to increase welfare services provision by expanding the service provider base; second, to ensure social stability by meeting welfare needs and controlling the direction of civil society. The key dilemma facing government was how to foster service-oriented NGOs whilst keeping at bay rights-oriented and politically sensitive groups. These policy moves can be understood as technologies of statecraft linked to a broader agenda of social stability and welfare provision. The paper focuses on key technologies of power, namely: first, changes in the regulatory environment to encourage and simultaneously discourage certain types of social organisations; second, political policies to strengthen Party control over social organisations; and third, lists of services that government stipulates for contracting to NGOs that then shape and order the construction of needs. The paper draws upon ongoing research funded by the ESRC on the politics of contracting welfare services provision to NGOs in three sectors, namely, migrants, people living with HIV/AIDs and people living with disabilities.

panel M5
Understanding social protection as technologies of social ordering and reproduction within contemporary development