Narrative stories in Chinese characters: political framing of ageing and welfare reform in China

Minna van Gerven*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)
108 Downloads (Pure)


This article analyses narrative stories used by the Chinese government to connect the problem of population ageing to welfare reform. The findings derived from semi-structural interviews and key policy documents suggest the unfolding of the narrative stories of power and stories of rising and stories of decline. The narrative stories in the developmental Chinese welfare state are diverse and stem from different processes than those for the mature European welfare states. The Narrative stories also vary for different policy areas. For inequality and health-care policies, under the master narrative of story of power, state depicts ‘stories of giving-to-give’ to support expansion in the traditional ‘old risk’ type of policies to main population, including the elderly. For long-term care, the power narrative of ’giving-to-shape’ legitimizes the expansionary reforms for a small group of deserving frail elderly. Behind this political framing of long-term care reform lies the story of decline that justifies the modest role of state provision in the organization of long-term care and leaves the responsibility for economic, social and spiritual wellbeing for the society itself. The story of decline in China also gravitates around sustainability of societies rather than around financial sustainability commonly underlining the political debate in the West.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-518
Number of pages17
JournalPolicy and Society
Issue number3
Early online date26 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • ageing
  • China
  • framing
  • health
  • inequality
  • long-term care
  • narratives
  • welfare reform


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