This paper uses a case study of the evolution of education and healthcare provision in Yantian Village, Guangdong Province to examine broader trends in China’s evolving social policies. It makes no claims that development in Yantian is typical for rural China but it may allow some tentative conclusions to be drawn about the extent of inclusiveness of social policy and the moves towards citizenship as a basis for redistribution policies and welfare provision. Yantian is not a normal village but rather is what people refer to as an “urban village” and it has been one of the major beneficiaries of economic reform. Lying close to Hong Kong and Shenzhen, it is in the hub of the Pearl River Delta that has become a key link in the global reorganization of manufacturing and production. The economic reforms, especially the opening to foreign investment, pursued since the late-1970s have replaced the water buffalo and rice paddies with China’s main export processing center. It has been a key center for foreign direct investment and, as a result, has attracted a large migrant community. The province of Guangdong is home to some 30 million migrants, 80,000 of whom lived in Yantian in 2010. The migrants work primarily in the 200 or so foreign invested enterprises vested in Yantian (there were over 400 at their peak). However, the group of migrants is not homogenous and this has consequences for how they are treated within the village. Investors are treated far better than those working in the factories. Most importantly, the migrants are not eligible for any payout from the dividends from the village collective that has provided the relative wealth for the local residents. The rapid development of Yantian with the influx of foreign investment and the large number of migrants who moved into the village put tremendous pressure on the educational services. This led to the emergence of a network of different types of schools catering to the varied needs within the community. The range of schools available did mean that all children in Yantian were able to find schooling irrespective of family background, but the quality and investment varied significantly. Most importantly, from 2008 the government budget covered the costs for migrant children helping overcome the biggest inequity of the previous years. Yet, differences remained with respect to the quality of the teachers and the infrastructure in the schools.
As elsewhere in China, economic reforms had a major impact on medical insurance in Yantian. From the early-1980s, Yantian Village started to transform its healthcare system from one based on a collective, cooperative scheme to one where village clinics ran on contracts. This meant villagers no longer enjoyed any guarantees for healthcare provision. Some of the wealthier families purchased commercial medical insurance, while certain production teams set aside a partial fund from their collective revenues to subsidize members who suffered catastrophic or chronic disease and to provide a limited medical allowance. However, by 2000 Yantian Village had achieved universal coverage for its residents through a three-phase development.