King's College London

Research portal

Technologies of Authoritarian Statecraft in Welfare Provision: Contracting Services to Social Organizations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Jude A. Howell, Regina Enjuto Martinez, Yuanyuan Qu

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1418-1444
Number of pages27
Issue number6
PublishedNov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: The article draws upon an analysis of policies, laws and speeches of leaders related to welfare‐services contracting over the past two decades. It forms part of a larger project funded by the UK's Economic and Social Research Council on the politics of contracting welfare services to NGOs in China. The research involved an extensive review of relevant Chinese and English literature, alongside an analysis of relevant policies, laws and regulations at central level and, where available, at local level, from 1998 to 2020. It is supplemented with findings from fieldwork conducted during 2018 and 2019 in four locations (A, B, C, D) and across three sectors. The four locations had varying contracting histories and trajectories, including former experimental sites for contracting and a city new to contracting, with few social organizations. The three sectors were HIV/AIDs, children with disabilities and migrant groups; they represented marginalized interests less covered in the literature, enabling us to capture issues around rights and advocacy work in an increasingly repressive political context. Altogether 121 interviews of between one and three hours were conducted with 84 NGOs, 29 academics and experts (including 14 based in Hong Kong) and eight government officials. Where permission was granted, the interviews were recorded and transcribed. The names of informants remain anonymous to protect interviewees. Organizations were sampled using various sources such as handbooks of NGOs, websites and personal networks, lists of contracting programmes, contacts with government officials and stakeholders and snowballing techniques. In analysing the policies, laws and speeches and relevant fieldwork, we developed thematic codes such as NGO–state relations, lists, autonomy, Party cells’ contracting processes, and social work. The interview data were triangulated with relevant sources such as sectoral and locational studies, policies and websites. All translations into English are provided by the authors. 4 Publisher Copyright: © 2021 The Authors. Development and Change published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of International Institute of Social Studies Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


In 2013 the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party adopted a nationwide policy to contract out welfare services to social organizations. This presented the Party/state with a conundrum: how best to foster service-oriented social organizations whilst retaining control over politically sensitive groups. Using a Foucauldian framework of analysis, this article explores the rationalities and technologies of statecraft deployed to navigate this tension. It argues that contracting welfare services is a form of governmentality linked to economic efficiency, welfare provision and social stability, requiring subtle ways of governing society. In implementing this policy, the Party/state seeks to foster a service-oriented civil society and stymie rights-based and politically sensitive groups.

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454