Social Governance and Policy Innovation in Contemporary China

Instructor Name

Timothy Hildebrandt

Instructor Biography

Timothy Hildebrandt is an Associate Professor of Social Policy and Development at the London School of Economics. Trained as a political scientist and Sinologist, his mixed methods research on state-society relations in China, social organization development, political behavior, and social policy has been featured in numerous journals including Development and Change, Democratization, Journal of Contemporary China, Journal of Civil Society, Review of International Studies, Voluntas, among many others; he is also author of Social Organizations and the Authoritarian State in China (Cambridge University Press, 2013). Dr Hildebrandt is co-editor of The China Quarterly, on the editorial board of Global PublicPolicyand Governance, and on the governing council of the LSE-Fudan Research Centre for Global Public Policy. He regularly appears in international news media, including BBC, CNN, and The Guardian among others.

Course Description

China's rise as an economic superpower has improved the well-being of most citizens. But development has also brought with it new challenges, affecting some more than others and heightening the inherent difficulties that come with managing any society with diverse interests and needs. In response, China has a long history of developing, testing, and implementing a wide range of macro and micro level policy innovations. The course uses tried and tested innovations, ‘small state, big society’ and the newer Social Credit system and Common Prosperity, as lenses through which students explore key questions: How do states organize and manage societies through policy innovation? How can states, societies, and markets work in cooperation to address pressing social problems? And, how can we minimize the unintended effects of social governance policies?  

The course draws upon numerous empirical examples including demographic challenges, family planning, eldercare, health care, environmental protection, gender, and sexuality—paying attention to the most vulnerable in society, and those who are frequently ‘unseen’ by states in social management schemes. This course draws upon literature from political science, sociology, economics, public health, psychology, and social policy—and the instructor’s draws cutting-edge ongoing research on state-society relations and citizenship in China.

Course Schedule

Ten Session Topics

  • Introduction: social governance, policy innovation, & how states manage societies

  • ‘Small state, big society’: the Chinese state under decentralisation

  • Social organisation growth and hybridization

  • De-familisation and re-familisation: the changing use of the family in policy innovation

  • Markets and the private sector: from rival to partner

  • The roots (and early verdict) on the Social Credit scheme

  • Citizenship, volunteerism and charitable giving

  • Happiness and mental health

  • Trust, privacy, and inequality

  • Conclusion

Learning Outcomes

  • Understand the concepts social management and policy innovation generally, and their application to China particularly.

  • Appreciate the difficulty in managing diverse societies, and the costs and benefits that come with policy innovations designed to improve it.

  • Learn about the wide variety of actors involved in social management, across sectors, in both formal and informal spheres.

  • Understand how innovations have affected various groups in society, and affected social problems themselves, whether intended or not.

  • Apply these understandings to analyse newly emerging policy innovations and theorising the (un)intended effects they could have in a number of important areas.