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Abstract

We make three arguments in this review of the literature on rural welfare governance in Vietnam and China. First, welfare restructuring in these countries has gone through two overlapping processes of contraction and expansion, underlined by changing politics of needs and shifting modes of governance since their shift from state to market socialism. Such politics are the outcome of the Communist party-state’s dual project of legitimation and control, as widespread social conflicts challenge its legitimacy. Secondly, the dislocations and inequalities induced by marketization have been coupled with greater involvement of a broad range of social actors in welfare provision. Thirdly, the rise of social protection is shaped by state control, wealth disparities between regions and social classes, and a care politics deeming certain groups as failing to meet the human capital requirements of the new economy. While providing some buffer against destitution, existing forms of social protection do little to alleviate the social exclusion and inequality resulting from post-reform dispossession.