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Contractual controls and pragmatic professionalism: A qualitative study on contracting social services in China

Lei, Jie and Cai, Tian and Chan, Chak Kwan (2022) 'Contractual controls and pragmatic professionalism: A qualitative study on contracting social services in China.', Critical Social Policy .


This study used the contracting projects of a district branch of the Women's Federation in Guangzhou as case examples to demonstrate both the Chinese state's contractual controls over social work organisations (SWOs) and the pragmatic response strategies of SWOs and professionals. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with seventeen participants, including local officials of the Women's Federation and social workers from contracted SWOs. It was found that with the ultimate goal of consolidating the legitimacy of the Communist Party of China, the Women's Federation's dual role in politics and service provision had led to normative, managerial, technical and relational controls over SWOs. SWOs and professionals were generally submissive to these controls, but they employed diverse coping strategies, including compliance, bargaining, transformation and investment in personal relationships. The interactions within the contractual relationship created a pragmatic professionalism that embraced dominant political ideologies, employed de-politicising techniques, and personally depended on individual officials.

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Publisher statement:This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:12 August 2022
Date of first online publication:25 April 2022
Date first made open access:12 August 2022

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