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Shall We Dance? Welfarist Incorporation and the Politics of State–Labour NGO Relations*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 August 2015

Jude Howell*
London School of Economics and Political Science. Email:


Relations between the state and labour NGOs in China have been particularly fraught. In 2012, they took an interesting turn when some local governments made overtures to labour NGOs to cooperate in providing services to migrant workers. This article argues that this shift is part of a broader strategy of “welfarist incorporation” to redraw the social contract between state and labour. There are two key elements to this strategy: first, a relaxation of the registration regulations for social organizations, and second, governmental purchasing of services from social organizations. These overtures have both a state and market logic to maintain social control and stabilize relations of production.


在中国, 国家与劳工非政府组织的关系一直格外令人忧虑。2012 年, 两者关系发生了戏剧性的反转。一些地方政府主动向劳工非政府组织表示, 愿意与之合作为外来工提供服务。本文指出, 这一转变是内容更为丰富的 “福利化社团” 战略的一部分, 目的是重订国家与劳工之间的社会契约。它包含两大基本要素; 其一、放宽对社会组织登记管理的规定; 其二、政府向社会组织购买服务。这些举措包含着意在保持社会控制和稳定生产关系的国家与市场的双重逻辑。

Copyright © The China Quarterly 2015 

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I am grateful for comments of participants on a presentation of this paper at a seminar at the Australian National University (ANU) in September 2014, to the ANU for hosting this visit, and to the Fairbank Center, Harvard, for providing an intellectual environment for data analysis and writing. Thanks are also due to Dr Yue Jianyong for his translation of the abstract.


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