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Social work in the making: The state and social work development in China


  • In this article, we use the words “state” and “government” interchangeably. However, in the context of China, the term “Chinese government” means not only the different levels (central, provincial, municipal) of the bureaucratic and administrative system, but also the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its local branches. Together all these form the Chinese government.


The instrumental role of government in the development of social work in China has led to questions about its political function. So far, little has been reported on how the government has “made” social work in China. To fill this gap, we first provide a brief chronological review of major policies and activities of the Chinese government in its making of social work in China. The state's intervention has indeed been massive and crucial although, politically, it may limit the mandate of social work in China. Yet, we argue that the development of the social work profession in China is generating institutional space for the emerging civil society to take a more active role in welfare service delivery. Situated and mediating between the state and the emerging civil society, the social work profession in China will need to constantly negotiate its mandate to meet the needs of both sides.