Based on a survey of ‘off-duty workers’ in Guangzhou, this paper explores the changing structure of social support in China. It focuses on the material aid and guidance in job search received by these workers. It concludes that while the state and its enterprises still play an important role in workers’ economic life, informal social networks have become more pertinent. These social support networks reduce workers’ dependence on the state and provide a social buffer for the transformation of state socialism into market socialism. They also imply a revival of autonomous space in a society that will have more resources to negotiate with the state in the future.

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