The New Policies (Chinese: 新法; pinyin: xīnfǎ) were a series of reforms initiated by the Northern Song dynasty reformer Wang Anshi when he served as minister under Emperor Shenzong from 1069–1076. The policies were in force until the emperor's death, then repealed, then enacted again and were a focus of court politics until the end of the Northern Song. In some ways it continued the policies of the aborted Qingli Reforms from two decades earlier.
According to Mary Nourse, Wang Anshi believed that:
The state should take the entire management of commerce, industry, and agriculture into its own hands, with a view to succoring the working classes and preventing them from being ground into the dust by the rich."
There were three main components to this policy: 1) state finance and trade, 2) defense and social order, and 3) education and improving of governance.
Some of the finance reforms included paying cash for labor in place of corvée labor, increasing the supply of copper coins, improving management of trade, and the Green Sprouts program (靑苗法) which provided direct government loan to farmers during planting seasons and to be repaid at harvest. He believed that foundation of the state rested on the well-being of the common people. To limit speculation and eliminate private monopolies, he initiated price control and regulated wages and set up pensions for the aged and unemployed. The state also began to institute public orphanages, hospitals, dispensaries, hospices, cemeteries, and reserve granaries.
The military reform centered on a new institution of the baojia system or organized households. This was done to ensure collective responsibility in society and was later used to strengthen local defense. He also proposed the creation of systems to breed military horses, the more efficient manufacture of weapons and training of the militia.
To improve education and government, he sought to break down the barrier between clerical and official careers as well as improving their supervision to prevent connections being used for personal gain. Tests in law, military affairs and medicine were added to the examination system, with mathematics added in 1104. The National Academy was transformed into a real school rather than simply a holding place for officials waiting for appointments. However, there was deep-seated resistance to the education reforms as it hurt bureaucrats coming in under the old system.
Contention over the reforms
The reforms created political factions in the court. Wang Anshi's faction, known as the "Reformers", were opposed by the ministers in the "Conservative" faction led by the historian and Chancellor Sima Guang (1019–1086). As one faction supplanted another in the majority position of the court ministers, it would demote rival officials and exile them to govern remote frontier regions of the empire. One of the prominent victims of the political rivalry, the famous poet and statesman Su Shi (1037–1101), was jailed and eventually exiled for criticizing Wang's reforms.
The Green Sprouts program and the baojia system were not conceived as revenue-generating policies but soon were changed to finance new state initiatives and military campaigns. Within a few months of the start of the Green Sprouts program in 1069 the government started to charge an annual interest of 20-30% on the loans it made to farmers. As the officials of the Ever-Normal Granaries who were managing the program were evaluated based on the revenue they could generate, this resulted in forced loans and lack of focus on the disaster relief, which was the original task of the Ever-Normal Granaries. 
In 1074, a famine in northern China drove many farmers off their lands. Their circumstances were made worse by the debts they had incurred from the seasonal loans granted under Wang’s reform initiatives. Local officials insisted on collecting on the loans as the farmers were leaving their land. This crisis was depicted as being Wang’s fault. Wang still had the emperor's favor, though he resigned in 1076. With the emperor's death in 1085, the reforms were abolished under the regency of Dowager Empress Xiang, only to be reinstituted when the new Emperor Zhezong came of age in 1093. The policies largely continued under the reign of Emperor Huizong until the end of the Northern Song dynasty in 1126.
- Nourse, Mary A. 1944. A Short History of the Chinese, 3rd edition, p. 136.
- Song Dynasty Renaissance 960-1279
- Sivin 1995, pp. 3–4.
- Ebrey, Patricia Buckley; Walthall, Anne; Palais, James B. (2006), East Asia: A Cultural, Social, and Political History, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-618-13384-4
- Denis Twitchett and Paul Jakov Smith, ed. (2009). The Sung Dynasty and its Precursors, 907–1279, Part 1. Cambridge University Press. pp. 414–419. ISBN 9780521812481.