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Radical Inequalities: China’s Welfare State in Comparative Perspective
Fri, 28 April 2017, 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM PDT
Professor Nara Dillon (Harvard University)
The Chinese communist welfare state was established with the goal of eradicating income inequality. Paradoxically, it widened the income gap between workers and peasants in the Mao era. To explain this ironic outcome, this talk places the Chinese case in the context of the globalization of welfare policies in the 20th century. The mismatch between welfare policies originally designed for European societies and China’s economic and political conditions in the 1940s and 1950s doomed China’s many welfare reforms to failure. When Chinese leaders gave up on welfare reform in the 1960s, this limited and unequal welfare state was consolidated and institutionalized, structuring welfare politics for the rest of the 20th century. China's extensive welfare reforms over the last 20 years have rectified some of the legacies of the Mao era, but inequality is still entrenched in China's welfare state today. Since many developing countries face similar constraints when they tried to create welfare states, the Chinese case offers insight into their limitations as well.
About the Speaker
Nara Dillon received her B.A. in history from Williams College and her Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Berkeley. From 2003 to 2007 she taught Chinese politics and comparative politics as an Assistant Professor at Bard College. She has held lecturer appointments in Government, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and Social Studies at Harvard since 2008, after spending a year at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies as a post-doctoral fellow. Dillon’s interests include the politics of welfare, charity, and health care in China and the rest of the developing world. Her publications include At the Crossroads of Empires: Middlemen, Social Networks, and Statebuilding in Republican Shanghai (Stanford, 2008) and articles on gender, private charity, and welfare reform. In 2015, Radical Inequalities: China's Revolutionary Welfare State in Comparative Perspective will be published in the Harvard Asia Center Series (Harvard University Press). She is currently doing comparative research on welfare state reforms in China and other developing countries, as well studying the development of slums and slum renewal policies in Chinese cities. Dillon teaches a junior tutorial on the political economy of modern China for East Asian Studies and Government concentrators. She also offers courses on global cities in East Asia; welfare in China, government and politics in China, and the politics of development in the post-Cold War era plus the political economy of health in the developing world.