Huisheng Shou, Globalization and Welfare Restructuring
in China: The Authoritarianism that Listens?
(Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2017), 138p. $116 hardback.
Published online: 7 February 2018
Journal of Chinese Political Science/Association of Chinese Political Studies 2018
Does globalization necessarily have a race to the bottom effect or a race to the top effect
on the welfare protection policy of today’s states? Huisheng Shou finds that, unlike
developed states, most developing states’ welfare spending moves to the middle.
Despite the authoritarian nature of the regimes in question, globalization results in
more people being covered with welfare spending at a reasonable level. To explain this
phenomenon, Shou proposes a theory combining global and local dynamics and uses
China as a case, illuminating the origin and institutionalization of its welfare program.
Specifically, Shou argues that globalization (that is, economic integration) provides the
necessary global dynamics by equalizing the wage and risk factors among different
sectors and social groups, who in return demand similar welfare protection from the
rulers. Shou argues that local dynamics induce rulers to expand welfare protection to
cover more people. This is how local dynamics provide the second necessary condition,
and become sufficient when combined with global dynamics. The local dynamics refer
to the simultaneous presence of a restive mass public, severe external security threats,
and fiscal constraints in these states. Only when these constant factors, called systemic
vulnerability, encountered global economic integration, did the rulers in these states
show a genuine commitment to institutionalizing effective welfare systems. Such
systems are key to surviving global competition and therefore the political survival of
Shou substantiates his analysis with a multimethod, multilevel approach after the
introductory chapter and the theoretical chapter. In particular, Chapters 3 to 6 provide
empirical evidence to test the global-local dynamics theory that the book outlines in
Chapter 2. Specifically, Chapter 3 overviews the chronology of how global dynamics
have influenced changes in China’s welfare spending. Chapters 4 and 5 use case-study
methods to focus on the chronological development of social assistance and social
J OF CHIN POLIT SCI (2018) 23:139–140
* Jing Chen
Department of Political Science, Hartwick College, Oneonta, NY 13820, USA