Since the early 21st century, the Chinese government has proactively expanded social protection by providing better benefits and broader coverage for its people. However, a new puzzle has emerged in the Minimum Living Standard Scheme, ‘last resort of social protection’ in China. Normally, when the benefit standard is set higher, relatively more people situated below this line are entitled to receive assistance. However, in reality fewer people than expected receive support. We study the case of Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, to explain this phenomenon and analyse the social citizenship of marginalized groups in urban China. We reveal the decline in replacement rates and tighter conditionality applied to defining the ‘deserving poor’ by reviewing administrative data and policy documents from 1995 to 2016. Drawing on the longitudinal qualitative study conducted between 2009 and 2011, we further illustrate how the decreased replacement rate and tighter conditionality diminish the well-being of the poor. Our findings on policy changes and their outcomes in Guangzhou provide some important insights into poverty governance and social citizenship under China’s social development in the past decade.
- minimum living standard scheme
- neo-liberal paternalism
- social assistance
- social citizenship
- social construction of deservedness