This article addresses the puzzle of the politics of social policy formation by two post-communist authoritarian regimes in China and Russia. It argues that two interrelated dimensions—which we term the pillars of power and policy—shape social policymaking and change in authoritarian regimes and support authoritarian regime stability. The pillar of power involves autocrats’ bargains with the public and elites, while the policy pillar includes bureaucratic and ideational processes. The latter are understood as the way policy actors perceive problems, choose solutions, and frame their policy choices. To demonstrate this empirically, the article analyzes and compares Chinese and Russian housing policies between 1990 and 2020. We find that despite bureaucratic competition within the policy pillar, neoliberal policy beliefs have guided policy while statist measures served to support—in China—and deepen—in Russia—the neoliberal approach focused on private homeownership. Yet, neoliberal measures have been channeled in ways that underpinned and adjusted the authoritarian regime bargains with different segments of the public and the elite within the pillar of power. Policy framing to match social cultural ideas was used in both countries to support public acceptance of the neoliberal measures while underlining the state’s care for people’s housing needs.

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