Systematic accounts of East Asian government responses to the ‘limits of productivist regimes’ (Gough, 2004) remain surprisingly rare. This article develops three distinct types of East Asian welfare development, i.e. quantitative, type-specific, and radical, employing set-theoretic methods. It then uses these types to analyse six policy fields, including education, health care, family policy, old-age pensions, public housing, and passive labour market policy, in six East Asian societies: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. We find that all cases except Hong Kong and Singapore have experienced at least one radical shift in their welfare models over the past three decades (1990–2016). East Asian governments have increasingly combined quantitative expansion or retrenchment of ‘productive’ and ‘protective’ policy structures but have done so in unique ways. South Korea has followed the most ‘balanced’ approach to welfare development and stands out as the best candidate for further type-specific expansions moving forward.