News from Project B05

The team of authors identifies three causal mechanisms that have led to the development of contribution-based social security systems in China.

Since the initiation of reform and opening policies, social protection for urban workers in the People’s Republic of China has transformed massively. Before the 1980s, state-owned enterprises were responsible for protecting workers from social risks such as old age, accidents, and illness. Today, these three areas are organized as contribution-based social insurance systems with Chinese characteristics.

In their paper "Causal mechanisms in the making of China‘s social insurance system: Policy experimentation, topleader intervention, and elite cooperation" Tobias ten Brink, Armin Müller and Tao Liu identifie the causal mechanisms that led to the introduction of insurance schemes in the 1990s and early 2000s. they find three causal mechanisms: (neutral and strategic) policy experimentation, top-leader intervention, and (consensus-based and enforced) elite cooperation. Moreover, the thre authors demonstrate that the presence or absence of complementarity between the international environment and the domestic actor constellation had a decisive effect on how those mechanisms played out in the policy fields of urban pension, health and work accident insurance.

"Causal mechanisms in the making of China‘s social insurance system: Policy experimentation, topleader intervention, and elite cooperation" is the seventh Socium SFB 1342 Working Paper that has been published since October 2019.


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Tao Liu
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute of Sociology
Forsthausweg 2
47057 Duisburg
Phone: +49 203 379-3747
E-Mail: tao.liu@uni-due.de

Dr. Armin Müller
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Research IV and China Global Center
Campus Ring 1
28759 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 200-3473
E-Mail: arm.mueller@jacobs-university.de

Prof. Dr. Tobias ten Brink
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Research IV and China Global Center
Campus Ring 1
28759 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 200-3382
E-Mail: t.tenbrink@jacobs-university.de

Müller met for a video conference with Evelyne Gebhardt, deputy chair of the delegation for relations with the PR China in the European Parliament, and Tamara Anthony, head of the ARD studio in Beijing.

A replay of the conversation is available on Evelyne Gebhardt's Facebook page (German only).


Contact:
Dr. Armin Müller
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Research IV and China Global Center
Campus Ring 1
28759 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 200-3473
E-Mail: arm.mueller@jacobs-university.de

Prof Zheng Gongcheng
Prof Zheng Gongcheng
Zheng Gongcheng, professor at Renmin University and chairman of the Chinese Society for Social Security Research, presented his view on the transformation of China's social policy at SFB 1342.

Zheng Gongcheng, Professor at the School of Labour and Human Resources at Renmin University and Chairman of the Chinese Society for Social Security Research, visited CRC 1342 and gave an overview of the development of Chinese social policy, especially in the last 70 years. He also discussed the current challenges the Chinese Communist Party faces in reforming the social system.

Zheng pointed out that China has a long tradition of social security. There had already been disaster and bereavement aid more than 2000 years ago. The Han dynasty even operated a long-term care system for older people.

China's modern social policy, however, only began some 70 years ago. In 1949 there were eight million refugees due to natural disasters, for whom an emergency aid system was set up. At the same time, the unemployment rate in the cities was 50 percent. In 1951, unemployment insurance was introduced in China's cities, but not in the countryside, to prevent those affected from becoming impoverished. This distinction remained characteristic of China's social policy: health insurance and orphanage assistance, which were introduced in the 1950s, also remained limited to the cities. Moreover, social benefits were not borne by the central state, but by the companies the people worked for.

With the transition from the state-planned economy to the Chinese variant of capitalism, China's social policy also changed fundamentally. Social benefits are now at least partially financed by contributions, and the rural population is also included in the systems. According to Zheng, there are currently 1.4 billion Chinese registered in the social security systems. 1.35 billion people are covered by health insurance, 277 million currently receive pensions and around 5 percent of the total population receives social assistance.

"However, the system is still far from mature," said Zheng. "The goal of equality and justice has not yet been achieved". The financial basis of the social systems must be broadened and the pools from which the benefits are paid must be enlarged. At present, for example, health insurance is not yet pooled at national level, but at district level.

For pension insurance, nationwide financing is planned for 2021. The pension system, however, has the greatest need for reform in the areas of retirement age and minimum contribution period. Currently, Chinese women can receive their pension at the age of 50 and men at the age of 60 provided they have paid contributions for 15 years. It is obvious that the pension system cannot be financed sustainably with these figures.

But the necessary reforms are unpopular: in an online survey, 97 percent of employees in the public sector rejected a reform of the pension system. The Communist Party has already worked out the roadmap with the necessary reform steps and is unlikely to deviate from it. But, according to Zheng Gongcheng, the party has realized that it has to put in a lot of effort to convince the population of the necessary changes.

Looking to the future, Zheng also advocated the introduction of a private pension scheme to supplement the state pension. He also assessed the introduction of private primary schools as positive. Accident and unemployment insurance must be expanded. The biggest task, however, would be the introduction of long-term care insurance. China's population is ageing rapidly, and 60 percent of families have only one child. In many cases, it will not be possible in the future to care for elderly people in need of care in the families. China is therefore closely monitoring the long-term care systems in Germany and Japan in particular.

Zheng Gongcheng had come to Bremen with a number of colleagues from various social science research institutions. Following Zheng's lecture, the Chinese delegation met with the members of project B05 to discuss the pension, social assistance and health insurance reform in China in detail. SFB member Liu Tao also explained current developments in the German social security system to the Chinese guests.


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Tobias ten Brink
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Research IV and China Global Center
Campus Ring 1
28759 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 200-3382
E-Mail: t.tenbrink@jacobs-university.de

Tao Liu, Tobias ten Brink and Armin Müller presented their research at an international conference of the Centre for Chinese Public Administration Research in Guangzhou.

From 24-25 November 2018, members of project B05 participated in the “Poverty, Inequality and Social Policy International Conference 2018” in Guangzhou, China. The Centre for Chinese Public Administration Research at Sun Yat-sen University organised the conference, and scholars from Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, mainland China, Korea, Australia, Germany and the UK attended.

Prof. Tao Liu, Prof. Tobias ten Brink and Dr. Armin Müller presented during the conference. Dr. Müller evaluated the effectiveness of health insurance in preventing illness-induced poverty in China among the elderly, whereas Prof. Liu defined digital risks and how they could challenge social protection. Prof. ten Brink introduced the Collaborative Research Centre 1342, its two Project Areas A and B, and project B05. Adding on the introduction, he also mentioned how Chinese Dibao (minimum living allowance) has synthesized disparate ideas of European welfare universalism, American's workfare and the Chinese tradition of pragmatism and regionalism. Project team B05 also had an internal meeting at Guangzhou.


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Tao Liu
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute of Sociology
Forsthausweg 2
47057 Duisburg
Phone: +49 203 379-3747
E-Mail: tao.liu@uni-due.de

Dr. Armin Müller
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Research IV and China Global Center
Campus Ring 1
28759 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 200-3473
E-Mail: arm.mueller@jacobs-university.de

Prof. Dr. Tobias ten Brink
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Research IV and China Global Center
Campus Ring 1
28759 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 200-3382
E-Mail: t.tenbrink@jacobs-university.de

Prof Dr Tao Liu
Prof Dr Tao Liu
In a brief interview, the co-director of project B05 explains the advantages of the distinction from the top Chinese university for the CRC 1342.

You have been recently honored as a Distinguished Professor by the Zhejiang University - congratulations! In which department is the professorship located?
At the School of Public Affairs. The distinction is limited to three years: from December 2018 to December 2021.

How important is Zhejiang University in China and internationally?
Zhejiang University is one of the top universities in China. It currently ranks third behind Beijing University and Tsinghua University. In the QS World University Ranking, Zhejiang University is currently in 68th place. For comparison: the Technical University of Munich is in 61st place in this ranking.

Will you be at Zhejiang University more often now?
I will visit Zhejiang University every year and give a series of lectures on social policy.

What practical advantages does this distinction have for you personally as a scientist and for the CRC?
I am now a formal member of Zhejiang University, I have a university card and I can use the entire infrastructure: from the cafeteria to the library. Equally important is the contact and access to scientists, especially to important social policy researchers. In the long run, the Distinguished Professor status will greatly facilitate our social policy research in the Yangtze Delta region and our access to regional and subnational social policy data.


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Tao Liu
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute of Sociology
Forsthausweg 2
47057 Duisburg
Phone: +49 203 379-3747
E-Mail: tao.liu@uni-due.de

Tao Liu and Tobias ten Brink, who are jointly directing project B05, have published a special issue of the "Journal of Chinese Governance". The six articles of the issue examine China's social policy from an international, comparative perspective.

Liu and ten Brink argue in their introduction that the expansion of social policy in China in recent decades has been influenced and facilitated by international and supranational influences. Liu elaborates on this in his contribution "Epistemological globalization and the shaping of social policy in China". According to Liu and ten Brink, the logic of Chinese social reforms cannot be understood if these external factors are not taken into account. How exactly the transfer of knowledge and ideas between countries of the Global North and China has taken place and how concepts have been taken up, adopted or modified, however, requires further investigation.

Liu's an ten Brinks introduction to the special issue is available online.


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Tao Liu
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Institute of Sociology
Forsthausweg 2
47057 Duisburg
Phone: +49 203 379-3747
E-Mail: tao.liu@uni-due.de

Prof. Dr. Tobias ten Brink
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Research IV and China Global Center
Campus Ring 1
28759 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 200-3382
E-Mail: t.tenbrink@jacobs-university.de

The project B05 team in Dalian
The project B05 team in Dalian
The project B05 team was invited by the Chinese Association of Social Security to the 14th International Forum on Social Security "Social Security and State Governance".

In mid-September, the project B05 team was invited by the CAOSS (Chinese Association of Social Security) to the 14th International Forum on Social Security "Social Security and State Governance", the biggest conference in East Asia on social security and social policy. The conference was organized by ILO (International Labor Organization), FES (Friedrich Ebert Stiftung), KASP East Asia Research Committee, JASP's Section on Japan-East Asia Social Policy and CAOSS.

Tobias ten Brink presented the agenda of the CRC project as one of the keynote speeches, addressing the research of the CRC 1342 and the interest in China of project B05. The CRC project received great interest from both Chinese scholars and the international audience. Tao Liu from the Institute of East Asian Studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen participated in the round table discussions on the future of social protection as one of the speakers. During the two-day conference, the B05 team had a meeting with the president of CAOSS, Prof. Zheng Gongcheng at Renmin University, on future co-work and research cooperation. Team member Dr. Armin Müller, research fellow Tong Tian and Yuxin Li of Duisburg-Essen University also attended. The conference in Dalian tightened CRC 1342’s relations with researchers from East Asia.


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Tobias ten Brink
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Research IV and China Global Center
Campus Ring 1
28759 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 200-3382
E-Mail: t.tenbrink@jacobs-university.de

Meeting at the Jacobs University Bremen
Meeting at the Jacobs University Bremen
Four scientists from the Centre for International Social Security Studies met with CRC 1342 members to exchange their views on pension reforms in China and Germany.

At the beginning of July a delegation from the Centre for International Social Security Studies (CISS) at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) came to visit the China Global Center at Jacobs University Bremen, and was warmly welcomed by the Dean of Jacobs University Bremen, Prof. Arvid Kappas. It was the first time Director Prof. Bingwen Zheng, General Secretary Prof. Lianquan Fang, associate Professor Chuanjun Qi and associate Professor Peng Guo visited Bremen.

During the meeting, Professor Tobias ten Brink delivered a presentation about the CRC 1342 project B05 "Dynamics of Chinese social policy. Interplay of national and international influences", which he and Professor Tao Liu at Duisburg-Essen University are directing. Tao Liu afterwards explained to the guests Germany’s Riester pension reform in detail. Peng Guo presented an update on the dynamics and reforms of Chinese old-age insurance. Dr. Armin Müller, Dr. Fei Wang, research fellow Tong Tian and Yuxin Li of Duisburg-Essen University also attended the meeting.


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Tobias ten Brink
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Research IV and China Global Center
Campus Ring 1
28759 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 200-3382
E-Mail: t.tenbrink@jacobs-university.de

Dr. Armin Müller
Dr. Armin Müller
As a teenager Armin Müller knew nothing about China, today he speaks Mandarin and is an expert on China's social security system. In an interview, he explains which impact state censorship has on his work and what money recycling machines are all about.

What would you have become if you hadn't become a scientist?

I wanted to be a musician. I played classical and electric guitar and in school I studied music as a major. I enjoyed it, but sometimes your wishes and reality do not match.

Obviously you noticed that in time and turned to science.

Yes, already as a teenager I was very interested in politics, economics and the connections between the two, especially with regard to the development of non-European societies. After school I looked around for something that was both practical and exciting for me personally. That's where political science came into play.

You're very interested in China. How did this happen?

When I was 16 or 17, I started reading oriental philosophy, and I found Taoism in particular quite exciting. I also realised relatively early on that China will have a strong political and economic position in the world by 2020. But I had to realize that I actually knew nothing about the country apart from the fact that a communist party reigns there. So I thought it would be interesting to take a closer look.

China is a rather inaccessible place for most people. Outside the capitals hardly anyone speaks English, the street signs only show Chinese characters... When did you first travel to China and how was that?

I was in China for the first time in 2003. But I had been learning Mandarin for a year and a half and was able to communicate. That made the country much more accessible to me. I have no idea what it's like to travel around China without speaking Chinese. All in all I imagine it to be quite difficult, although the most important signs etc. are now also translated into English. Sometimes, however, translation errors creep in, which can be quite funny when an ATM carries the label "Money Recycling Machine", for example.

You're fluent in Chinese now ...

Yes. Although I always have to refresh the language. I read Chinese texts every day, especially scientific ones. But that is quite a special vocabulary. So I use the time I'm on the train on my way to Jacobs University in the morning to practice my vocabulary.

China has undergone major changes since the turn of the millennium, state control and censorship are growing. How does this affect your work as a scientist?

At the beginning of the century there was a phase of opening: for some years it was relatively easy to conduct research on site. In recent years, things have tended to become more difficult again. The social climate has changed and many people are more cautious today than ten years ago. However, it also depends very much on what subject you are dealing with. Social policy is generally not a particularly sensitive issue.

Why did you specialise in social policy?

When my master's thesis was approaching, the new socio-political initiatives of China, some of which we are investigating in our CRC project, have just begun. My professor was also interested and so I started to deal with the rural health care system. The social security systems and political and administrative processes in China are quite complex and there is a lot to be done in this area.

Can you briefly outline your role in the project?

I am currently setting up an internal database to analyse how the various forms of social security have spread in recent years - especially since 2000, but also before that. Coordination among the various scientists is also an important task of mine because we are spread over two universities. And soon two PhD students wil join our team.

Dear Armin, thank you very much for the interview - we wish you and your whole team much success for your project!

 


Contact:
Dr. Armin Müller
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Research IV and China Global Center
Campus Ring 1
28759 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 200-3473
E-Mail: arm.mueller@jacobs-university.de

Prof. Dr. Tobias ten Brink
Prof. Dr. Tobias ten Brink
At a conference at Columbia University, Tobias ten Brink presented the aganda of the CRC project on China's social policy and discussed it with leading international experts.

Tobias ten Brink participated in the conference "Expanding Social Policy in China" at the China Center for Social Policy at Columbia University. In a roundtable discussion, ten Brink presented the CRC project "Dynamics of Chinese social policy. Interplay of national and international influences".

"Over the past fifteen years, the Chinese government has invested heavily in expanding the social system, and many citizens have gained access to social services for the first time," says Tobias ten Brink, who is deputy director of the Center for the Study of China & Globalization at Jacobs University Bremen. Although the level of Chinese social services is low compared to the West, it is higher than in other emerging countries such as India.

Ten Brink and Tao Liu from the Institute of East Asian Studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen are jointly directing project B05. In addition to national factors such as economic growth, demography and internal migration, the scientists want to investigate how international factors influence national policy. “The Chinese government and experts have for decades been watching what is happening in other countries, including Europe, and have since then linked international role models with their own social policy traditions and created their own social security system,” says ten Brink.

"Via the presentation in New York, we were able adress parts of the US social policy community, especially those interested in China/East Asia, and channel their attention to our China project and the SFB as a whole," says ten Brink. "The SFB was received with great interest, especially as such extensive funding for social policy research currently seems impossible in the USA, according to the participants." The conference also served to deepen cooperation relations with researchers from the Anglo-Saxon region.


Contact:
Prof. Dr. Tobias ten Brink
CRC 1342: Global Dynamics of Social Policy, Research IV and China Global Center
Campus Ring 1
28759 Bremen
Phone: +49 421 200-3382
E-Mail: t.tenbrink@jacobs-university.de