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Selected Development Project
Project Title

Public Attitudes towards Social Policy in Urban China: Sub-national Variation, Local Welfare Regimes and Implications for Policy Reforms

Principal Investigator Dr Alex He Jingwei
Area of Research Project
Public Policy Research
Project Period
From 01/2017 To 12/2018
  1. To investigate public attitudes towards social policy in a populous country with significant regional disparity.
  2. To examine if sub-national variation in social policy arrangements and benefits determines citizens’ attitudinal patterns and analyze its policy implications.
  3. To test the self-interest thesis and the ideology thesis in the context of urban China.
  4. To provide evidence-based recommendations on popular support for social policy reforms in urban China
Methods Used
This study is based on an original survey of urban inhabitants from three Chinese provinces. Quantitative results are reinforced by qualitative investigations.
Summary of Findings

This project seeks to analyze Chinese people’s attitudes towards social policy and particularly examine if sub-national variation in social policy has resulted in discernible attitudinal cleavages in the society. We have found marked variation in Chinese people’s attitudes towards social policy, and the variation appears to be shaped by the sub-national variation in social policy and welfare systems. The three mainstream theoretical theses, namely, the self-interest thesis, the ideology thesis, and the institutional thesis, have all been found of explanatory power to varying extent in urban China; but some new major findings suggest distinct dynamics of social policy development in contemporary China that are explained in this study.


While China is undergoing rapid societal changes and social policy expansion, the economic downturn and various socioeconomic challenges such as ageing population and reduced fiscal space, however, require the policy-makers to better respond to popular welfare attitudes of the citizenry. In particular, the fragmentation of China's welfare system has essentially led to different "worlds of welfare" within the same country. This project strengthens scholarly understanding on this fragmented welfare system and its attitudinal consequences. The insights generated from this project not only further theoretical knowledge on public opinions in social policy, but are also of reference value for scholars on other developing countries that are experiencing similar societal transformations and social policy reforms.

Selected Output
  • Li, Q. & He, J.A. (2019). Popular support for the social security system in urban China: evidence from a cross-sectional survey in a Chinese city, Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy, 35(3), 261-279.
  • He, J.A., Qian, J. & Ratigan, K. (2020). Attitudes towards welfare spending in urban China: evidence from a survey in two provinces and social policy implications, Journal of Chinese Governance, online first, https://doi.org/10.1080/23812346.2019.1709324.
  • He, J.A., Ratigan, K. & Qian, J. (2020). Attitudinal feedback towards sub-national social policy: a comparison of popular support for social health insurance in China. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, forthcoming.
  • Biography of Principal Investigator

    Dr He Jingwei Alex is Associate Professor and Associate Head (Research and Development) of the Department of Asian and Policy Studies, at the Education University of Hong Kong. He received his PhD degree in Public Policy from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. Dr He specializes in public policy analysis, health policy and governance and social policy reforms, with particular reference to the Greater China region. He has published extensively in these areas, contributing articles to leading international journals and publishing houses, including Public Administration Review, China Quarterly, Health Policy and Planning, Social Science and Medicine, Journal of Contemporary China, Social Policy and Administration, Health Policy, Policy and Society, and Public Administration and Development. He also has a rich portfolio of academic articles and book chapters published in Chinese.He was twice the recipient of the EdUHK President’s Award for Outstanding Performance in Research.

    Funding Source

    General Research Fund