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This distinction is not simply a matter of individual concern but also has broad social consequences. In developing societies, urbanization and industrialization interact. When social welfare benefits are tied to seniority, wage levels, place of employment, etc., they merely reinforce the trend that makes urban life, and particularly worker status, more attractive. To the extent that services are distributed on the basis of need, used without regard to contribution, they then can contribute to an equalization process. In general, the path of the Soviet Union, emphasized the modern sector of the economy with benefits linked to the capacity to produce and contribute. In the Chinese case, this was largely true until 1957; between 1957 and 1966, the picture began to change; and since 1966, we have observed a determined effort to equalize opportunities between countryside and city, to eliminate or reduce distinctions between skilled and unskilled, and in essence to raise the standard of living in the entire nation.

With these introductory comments, we proceed in the following order. For organizational purposes, we begin with the urban area where the major post-1949 welfare programs, metabolic and income maintenance policies are in operation. This discussion includes brief references to the role of the labor union (more widely researched in the Chinese field), and more extended comments on the residence committee. It then turns to the rural sector-vastly more important in terms of population and level of difficulty, but much more difficult to document. The rural programs include most of the urban metabolic efforts but also reflect differing organization emphasis.

We conclude with comparison of Chinese characteristics measured against the judgments of Bernice Madison in her study of the Soviet social welfare.


Though a constant theme of Chinese publications to their own citizens as well as to the world at large has been the improvement of life over the last twenty years, there is remarkably little data published on welfare efforts. It is simply not possible to find the kinds of statistical support that buttress Bernice Madison's book, Social Welfare in the Soviet Union, or R. Osborn's Soviet Social Policies.

Surveying the field of welfare, for example, we have no national figures on the total number of citizens eligible for the labor insurance programs, let alone the total figures on transfer payments for various income maintenance programs, the financial contribution of the labor union, the factory, and the national government. We can document trends (e.g., in 1958 the costs of labor insurance payments, particularly medical care, rose rapidly, were criticized in the press, and programs were undertaken to encourage workers to utilize the program only when real need occurred). After 1958 we are without guidelines on the proportion of the total wage bill attributable to services as distinguished from wages, the level of use, and the like. In the countryside, the situation is the same. Since rural China's facilities are largely developed on a local basis, there is an even greater difficulty in generalizing. Given the wide disparity in communes, which are the basic unit for most social services, this is a vexing problem.

There is an additional consideration that occurs by virtue of the Chinese emphasis on self-reliance rather than service. In the interviewing of refugees, for example, there are many accounts of help from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). If a breadwinner dies or is injured, a job may be found for his son, or wife. Instead of long term payments, where the opportunity permits, the emphasis will be upon a job to meet the need. There is no way of quantifying this practice.

Another aspect of the data problem is worth noting. In the immediate post1949 years when the Chinese developed labor insurance, we can compare the early draft and the final legislation, we have handbooks explaining different provisions, and technical points of the program. All of this natūrally contributes to our detailed knowledge and understanding. Since 1957, we have almost no detailed discussion of provisions, no detailed discussions of how regulations are enforced and interpreted. In the vast rural programs, we have some examples publicized for national study, reports from the stream of visitors in the last eighteen months, but there is very wide divergence determined by local conditions.

The result of these observations is to emphasize the fact that we rely upon trends, single cases, and refugee experience, even though welfare is an area of substantial Chinese achievement.

2 Madison, Bernice Q. Social Welfare in the Soviet Union Stanford, 1968


The cities have been the arena for implementing many of the welfare efforts of the Chinese. Though the problems of the cities of Asia are familiar to students of urbanism in general, the Asian experience is also different from that of Western Europe. As Kingsley Davis writes:

In the largely industrial nations, the sizeable difference between urban and rural birth rates and death rates required that ties, if they were to grow, had to have an enormous influx of people from farms and villages. Today in the underdeveloped countries the towns and cities have only a slight disadvantage in fertility and their old disadvantage in mortality has not only been wiped out but also in many cases reversed. During the 19th century the urbanizing nations were learning how to keep crowded populations in cities from dying like flies. Now the lesson has been learned.

. As a result throughout the nonindustrial world people in cities are multiplying

as never before and rural-urban migration is playing a much lesser role.3 In the Chinese context, this is particularly the case. Lack of population data since 1953 makes precision impossible, but China's urban population in 1959 exceeded 100 million. In other words, China's urban population, alone, is roughly equal to the total national population of Japan; or greater than all but the five or six most populous countries 4 Even assuming the ability to restrict rural migration' Chinese efforts to provide for their urban population must still cope with the reality of population increase. It is by no means clear that efforts at relocation will provide a long term solution. Furthermore, success in transferring population to the countryside will shift the locus but not solve the basic needs.

In policy there has been a pendulum-like shift of emphasis between urban and rural problems; reflecting indecision about the nature and priorities of nationbuilding and industrialization; but also intimately related to the Chinese quest for an egalitarian society. For their goal, “to each according to his need,”, the Chinese Marxists must seek to mitigate the privation and suffering that has been the lot of much of the nation, whether the emphasis is upon the rural peasant or the urban inhabitant. There are, however, some unique characteristics of the city that affect the urban problems of China.

Using the definitions of urban specialists Gideon Sjoberg and Louis Wirth, there are two related and yet distinct views of the city. Sjoberg comments the city has "greater size, density, and heterogeneity and [includes] a wide range of non-agricultural specialists most significant of whom are the literati.” 5 He emphasizes the "parallel evolution of technology and social organization (especially political organization); these are not just prerequisites to urban life but the basis for its development. As centers of innovation cities provide a fertile setting for continued technological advances, these gains made possible the further expansion of the cities.” This definition touches on those problems which may be characterized as metabolic “the materials and commodities needed to sustain the city's inhabitants, at home, at work, and at play.” 58 A number of these needs are met in rather conventional form such as the provision of food, clothing, and the like. But, as some engineers have noted, there are three "whose solution rests almost entirely in the hands of the local administrator these three are the provision of an adequate water supply, the effective disposal of sewage, and the control of air pollution.'

.6 All are an intimate part of the physical welfare of China's urban inhabitants; toward the solution of at least two of them the Chinese have doveted considerable effort. Transportation and land use policies are additional problems within the same metabolic range.

Louis Wirth emphasizes the social extremes and social pathology associated with urban living. Wirth sees the city as

large, dense permanent settlement of unlike groups and derives from these attributes certain likely patterns of interaction and their consequences: impersonality, isolation, the decline of primary group membership and the

dominance of formal organization.ca 3 Davis, Kingsley “The Urbanization of the Human Population” in Cities New York, 1966, p. 19, 4 Population is a most difficult problem. Accepting the figure 89,150,000 for 1956 found in N.R. Chen Chinese Economic Statistics Chicago, 1967 p. 127, then, solely on the basis of internal growth, the cities of China must now exceed 100,000,000. Leo Orleans in a personal communication to this author suggested a figure of 125,000,000 for 1969. 3 Sjoberg, Gideon. The Preindustrial City Past and Present Glencoe, 1960 p. 11. ba Sjoberg, Gideon “The Origin and Evolution of Cities" in Cities p. 32. 6 Wolman, Abel "The Metabolism of the Cities” in Cities p. 157. ba Greer, Scott The Emerging City, Myth and Reality Glencoe, 1962, p. 16.

This view emphazies the negative aspects of a massified society; it provides, however, a realistic base point for those who seek to bring about change and reform. Chinese Communist efforts have been directed toward both the short term and long range problems of China's cities, the metabolic difficulties and social organization.

The sorry conditions in the cities at the time of the Communist takeover were regarded as being largely the result of foreign imperialism and Kuomintang ineptitude. But the Chinese do not seem to have argued that the ruralites are better off economically to remain in the villages rather than moving into the crowded cities. Though CCP policies have always encouraged a return to the villages, it is not on the basis that life there is easier; rather it has been that, though difficult, it is needed for the long-range building of a strong and socialist China.

All views of the problems of the city (whether the larger physical needs, individual requirements for food and shelter, or the personal need for companionship, love and affection), relate to welfare: the capacity of a society and its members to attain and maintain satisfying levels of life and health.

Though the Chinese Communists have consistently proclaimed a commitment to "welfare” and have fostered programs and institutions designed to provide it, at the same time there is a parallel theme in Chinese Communist idealogy; the stress on individual self-reliance. This is, in part, a practical acceptance of financial reality but it is also central to Chinese ideology as they move toward the ideal state. It poses contradictory functional requirements in Chinese life. In welfare the state is responsible; but so too are the individuals and the family. The Party and the state should assist the deprived individual but he also has a positive obligation to seek and participate in productive labour.

This idealogical emphasis on the responsibility for individual effort has undoubtedly helped to mitigate some problems. It also plays an important part in actual welfare policy. There are serious welfare needs, though that cannot be solved in this manner. Here the Chinese commitment to planning is clear.

The welfare complaints of China's urban dwellers have included: the shortage of housing, the frequency of accidents; the dangers to health from polluted water, rats or mosquitos; the stench of garbage, and the problem of sewage disposal. All of these problems have their counterparts in New York, Calcutta, Mexico City, or Tokyo; and any government of post-war China would have had to try and cope with them. There is, however, a difference in the background in which these needs occur, and hence in the analysis of their cause, and the choice of methods for solution.

The ideology of the CCP and its commitment to Party and government activity means that its role in the welfare field is not limited by the marketplace or by a need to preserve the dominance of the family. On the other hand, in both theory and practice some relative priority of tasks has to be accepted. In its widest sense, the Chinese Communist concept of welfare includes public utilities, housing, transportation, medical care, education, and the provisions of facilities for cultural and leisure activities. For those with diminished working power, there is an additional program of financial subsidy to permit them to maintain some minimum level of life.

The first decade of the Communist regime saw a broad attack on the needs outlined above. A major effort was designed to lower the infant mortality rate, extend life expectancy, and control communicable diseases. The methods included improvement of public utilities, mass campaigns against the “four pests,” and the development of good public health practices. The wider distribution of medical services and the drastic expansion of training facilities were necessary to raise the pitifully low existing level of medical care. Medical care and education have received great attention from the Chinese Communists and are considered by them as important aspects of their welfare efforts.

A high priority for the Chinese Communists has been these metabolic aspects of urban life. This need is constantly reported-from the earliest takeover of the Manchurian cities through the urban areas as they come under CCP control. Professor Wolman comments on two aspects of this problem: first, that the enormous size of urban problems is often difficult to grasp; and second, that local solutions may be possible for some problems. His words (specifically directed to water supply) are especially applicable to the Chinese experience:

No general prescription can be offered for bringing clean water to the vast population that still lacks it. I have found in my own experience however, that the inhabitants of communities both large and small can do much more to help themselves than is customarily recognized . . . it is surprising

how much can be accomplished with local labor and local materials and the

benefits in health are incalculable.? Some information on national government efforts to meet the needs of urban residents can be found in the charts included in the report Ten Great Years. Such data should be judged in terms of prior levels, but this information is not available. This report shows considerable investments in the construction of housing, urban public utilities (particularly water supply and sewage lines), and streets.

New cities have risen in different parts of the country and old cities have changed their shabby appearances. In the nine years 1950 to 1958, more than 410,000,000 square meters of floor space were added to the urban buildings throughout the country. . . . Urban public utilities have expanded rapidly. In nine years the length of pipes for running water increased by over 8,100 kilometres, the drainage system was expanded over 4,000

kilometres and the city roads were extended by over 7,600 kilometres.9 But these totals are small, when viewed in relation to national investment. Construction for public health and welfare was only 1.0 percent of the national total for the period through 1958. Construction of urban public utilities for the same years represented 2.5 percent. Public health and welfare was, in fact, the smallest category, and public utilities the third from the bottom. These are national investment figures, to be sure, and thus reflect the demands of industrialization as well as the needs of rural China. The national figures for yearly state expenditures are not comparable to the categories above. However, there are totals for “Social, Cultural, and Education” that range from a low of 10.6 percent in 1958 to a high of 16.0 percent in 1957. These national figures should of course be supplemented by local government expenditures, which are unfortunately not available. It is clear, in any event, that in meeting welfare needs the state-on both national and local levels—was confronted by the dilemna of competing claims.

The situation was met by a mixture of alternatives. Some pressing social needs of urban inhabitants were more or less ignored. In some cases, local initiative renovated or improved existing facilities; in others, subscription by participants supplemented municipal expenditures.

The general need for public utilities has been of continuing concern to the Chinese. The preferred solutions, however, have changed. The elements which have characterized Chinese efforts (namely, the interest of the Party and the government, the responsibility of local administration, and the self-reliance and ingenuity of the masses) have persisted. But the actual solutions to concrete problems have changed over time, with the differences reflecting the changing orientation of the CCP.

During the early period, achievements in public health, and particularly sewage and water supply, were emphasized for their own merit rather than as a function of street organization. The largest number of complaints and requests in the cities centered upon these problems, sometimes with a successful outcome. On some occasions, the needs apparently were unmet. On others, the problems were solved but in less acceptable manners; namely through coercion:

Some individual street activist adopted coercive methods. For instance, after the street meeting announced the welfare fund would be subscribed, a ... team member just increased water fees per unit. . . . Another team member charged every household 10,000 yuan as garbage fees plus 5,000 yuan for dancing troupes. If a house refused to pay the sums of money, the team

member threatened that the garbage would not be removed.10 In the above examples, the emphasis is on the solution of a concrete problem. Judging by newspaper reports, the largest number of individual city requests occurred: (1) during the early years of the regime; (2) then late 1954 and 1955 when the street resident committees were formalized; and (3) in 1957. The number was substantial. In Tientsin, for example, more than 35,000 requests were received and most of them apparently concerned water supply, electricity, public toilet construction, cultural and political studies, labor employment and job transferences. 11 In Chungking, water pollution was a problem and the resident committees were able to get the government to take action. In most cases, the emphasis in the reporting is upon the appropriateness of the tasks (as well as the efficiency) of the resident committee.

7 Wolman, op. cit. p. 167.

8 One potential source of data which might provide some useful base of comparison may be in the files of the International Labour Organization in Switzerland. The notes to Jean Chesneaux The Chinese Labor Movement 1919–1927 Stanford, 1968, suggest this possibility.

,' Ten Great Years; Statistics of the Economic and Cultural Achievements of the People's Republic of China. Compiled by the State Statistical Bureau, Peking 1960 p. 53.

10 Shanghai, Chieh-fang Jih-pao (Liberation Daily) July 10, 1951. 11 Peking, Kuang-ming Jih-pao (Bright Daily) Dec. 12, 1954.

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On the eve of the Second Five Year Plan, a case history suggests that the solution had changed. In May 1957 an account in the Chengtu Daily deals with a familiar problem.

The masses in Tung-ch'eng district felt that the government did not concern itself enough with residents welfare problem. For example, many streets have not been repaired for years, many ditches are blocked up and are stinking, electric lights and water supply equipment need to be installed in many places.

The district peoples committee called the heads of the various street offices for a meeting on May 20. It was decided that the masses should be mobilized to solve these problems which are within their ability to overcome. The government will give support to the problems with which the masses are

unable to cope. Out of this discussion came a solution that differs from some of the examples of earlier years.

The 1000 households in Ying-i street along the river did not have wells. They used to draw water from the unsanitary river for daily use. After discussion, the street office and resident committee had decided to increase the number of water sterilization stations. Poor residents with labor abilities were mobilized to carry water from the river, sterilize it and sell it to the masses at

the price of one cent per pail.12 The solution utilized those in need of work and provided employment as well as water.

Concern with the problems of public health, and particularly its manifestations in urban public utilities, can be documented up to 1966. The limited references suggest, however, a shift away from the personalized accounts of the first decade and a more direct emphasis upon improved techniques, efficiency, and the ancillary uses of urban sewage. Thus on May 18, 1964, NCNA reports a new sewage method that permits the cleaning of sewers with less labor and continued effectiveness. In April 1966 the same source criticized western methods for treatment of sewage and lauded Chinese sanitation engineers who had developed a method whereby human and industrial sewage is properly mixed to provide needed fertilizers to nearby rural communities.

Next to food, housing ranks as an important need for the individual in an urban community. Housing shortages seem to be a common occurrence in most societies. Between 1953 and 1956 the urban population in fifteen Chinese cities increased 28 percent, apparently due in large measure to rural urban migration.13 A number of urban centers had their difficulties compounded by the fact that rural-urban migration produced squatter communities. These circumstances mean not only substandard housing but the additional problems of water, sewage, and the like with their ramifications for health. What were the various ways that housing was provided?

Some urbanites received new or better housing through their jobs. For instance, the Kirin Chemical enterprise built housing for its workers with provisions for tap water, electricity and central heating.14 In some cases, housing was provided by a municipal or joint municipal-national funding and built in a central portion of the city without reference to specific employment. The development of housing in the Chapei district of Shanghai, for example, was specifically designed for the needs of surrounding factories and offices 15 to replace previous squatter sheds. Surburban development also occurred. In Tientsin a housing estate was developed which constituted a town within itself having a population of over 100,000 and its own services including schools, hospitals, movies theatres.16 Obviously, such large scale efforts have been limited.

Some local building seems to have occurred through the work of resident committees, but the major committee efforts were devoted to repair and renovation. This activity, which can be documented since 1949, was carried out by resident committees as well as labor unions.

China's large cities suffer from a transportation shortage. Refugees in Hong Kong frequently commented on the long rides to their enterprise or government office. Many Chinese employees in the larger factories were regularly provided with an additional stipend because of transportation costs, or free transportation service to designated spots in the city. At the same time, there were continuing

12 Ch'eng-tu Jih-pao (Chengtu Daily) May 29, 1957.
13 See Sjoberg's chapter (1966) based on the data of Leo Orleans which compares the Chinese experience
with other nations. pp. 237-238.

14 New China News Agency Sept. 15, 1964 (hereafter NCNA).
15 NCNA Apr. 29, 1964.
16 NCNA Aug. 18, 1964.

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