This book grows out of my dissertation 'Social Welfare Under Chinese Socialism-A Case Study of the Ministry of Civil Affairs' submitted five years ago to the London School of Economics and Political Science. The story of social welfare in the world's most populous country is important in itself. It is also not much known outside China. Even people who have some knowledge about the country equate social welfare with what enterprises do for Chinese workers and their families. Other works have examined the business of civil affairs agencies, like disaster relief, orphanages, 'the five guarantees', here and there. However, this narrow welfare system is more complex and less coherent than people realize. It has an importance to the well-being of many many people in China and to the future of the country. I am grateful to my teacher Professor Robert Pinker, and to professional colleagues, for encouraging me to write a book about the subject. That I have dithered remains my fault. Yet the more I ponder on this exotic biography and the deeper I reflect on my earlier work, the more convinced I become of not only the need to update the facts but to examine their inner logic. I hope the book goes some way in shedding light on the key questions.
I have used two major methods in researching on the book. Intensive and extensive literature review of indigenous materials and external sources has been the most useful. Second, I have conducted many trips to China to collect data, interview officials and scholars, and observe how services operate on the ground. The most intensive field activities took place in 1988 when I toured Guangdong province and visited virtually every type of welfare programme at provincial, city, county, township, village and street levels. I have also completed two small surveys on welfare homes and welfare institutions. Such data have not been presented as a regional snapshot. The more I travelled, read and exchanged views with Chinese colleagues, the more convinced I am that the Guangdong developments were in line with the national picture. This is not to deny the value of a regional perspective. I have published some of my observations (on the case of the Pearl River Delta) elsewhere. For space reasons however, adding another chapter is not possible. My field trips have continued throughout the years. From the late 1980s onwards, I have visited Guangdong, in