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China's Emerging Middle Class

China's Emerging Middle Class: Beyond Economic Transformation

CHENG LI editor
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 396
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  • Book Info
    China's Emerging Middle Class
    Book Description:

    The rapid emergence and explosive growth of China's middle class have enormous consequences for that nation's domestic future, for the global economy, and for the whole world. InChina's Emerging Middle Class, noted scholar Cheng Li and a team of experts focus on the sociopolitical ramifications of the birth and growth of the Chinese middle class over the past two decades.

    The contributors, from diverse disciplines and different regions, examine the development and evolution of China's middle class from a variety of analytical perspectives. What is its educational and occupational makeup? Are its members united by a common identity -by a shared political vision and worldview? How does the Chinese middle class compare with its counterparts in other countries? The contributors shed light on these and many other issues pertaining to the rapid rise of the middle class in the Middle Kingdom.

    Contributors: Jie Chen (Old Dominion University), Deborah Davis (Yale University), Bruce J. Dickson (George Washington University), Geoffrey Gertz (Brookings), Han Sang-Jin (Seoul National University), Hsin-Huang Michael Hsiao (National Taiwan University), Homi Kharas (Brookings), Li Chunling (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences), Jing Lin (University of Maryland-College Park), Sida Liu (University of Wisconsin- Madison), Lu Hanlong (Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences), Joyce Yanyun Man (Peking University-Lincoln Center), Ethan Michelson (Indiana University-Bloomington), Qin Chen (Hohai University), Xiaoyan Sun (Beijing Foreign Studies University), Luigi Tomba (Australian National University), Jianying Wang (Yale University), and Zhou Xiaohong (Nanjing University).

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-0433-1
    Subjects: Economics, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    China’s development of a middle class is of potentially enormous consequence for its domestic future, for the global economy, and even for the world’s capacity to limit climate change. Yet the growing body of work to date that studies this phenomenon and its implications has been characterized, overall, by imprecise descriptions, little agreement on data, and a great deal of speculation (based in no small part on analogies from the West’s historical experience). Against this backdrop, this volume provides the best basis to date for further work on this important subject.

    Despite its phenomenal record of sustained GDP growth, the...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. PART I. The Global Significance of China’s Emerging Middle Class

    • CHAPTER ONE Introduction: The Rise of the Middle Class in the Middle Kingdom
      (pp. 3-31)
      CHENG LI

      Among the many forces shaping China’s course of development, arguably none will prove more significant in the long run than the rapid emergence and explosive growth of the Chinese middle class. China’s ongoing economic transition from a relatively poor, developing nation to a middle-class country has been one of the most fascinating human dramas of our time. Never in history have so many people made so much economic progress in one or two generations. Just twenty years ago a distinct socioeconomic middle class was virtually nonexistent in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), but today a large number of Chinese...

    • CHAPTER TWO The New Global Middle Class: A Crossover from West to East
      (pp. 32-52)

      The global economy has grown to rely heavily on American consumption. Thanks to a long-term downward trend in the personal savings rate from 10 percent in the early 1980s to approximately zero by 2007, the growth of U.S. consumption has been faster than the growth of U.S. GDP, making it a driver of both the U.S. and the global economies.¹ At $10 trillion, U.S. private consumption accounts for just under one-fifth of the world economy. In fact, as a source of demand, it is twice the size of the world’s next-largest entire economy, Japan.

      The structural force behind large U.S....

  6. PART II. The Chinese Perspective:: Social Stratification and Political Ideology

    • CHAPTER THREE Chinese Scholarship on the Middle Class: From Social Stratification to Political Potential
      (pp. 55-83)
      CHENG LI

      The emerging Chinese middle class poses a challenge for the China studies community largely because of its sociological heterogeneity and political ambiguity. This new socioeconomic entity consists of many subgroups that differ profoundly from one another in terms of their family origins, occupational identities, levels of educational attainment, and political backgrounds. Such sociological heterogeneity has also contributed to the ambiguity of the Chinese middle class’s political role vis-à-vis the authoritarian Communist regime. It is difficult to extrapolate from this emerging class’s current state to predict its future political role and potential contribution to democratic change in the People’s Republic of...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Globalization, Social Transformation, and the Construction of China’s Middle Class
      (pp. 84-103)

      Since the 1990s the growth of China’s middle class has become an issue of global importance. Its significance in world academia can be attributed not only to the fact that China boasts a population as large as 1.3 billion and a three-decade economic boom that has great bearing on global economic and political affairs but also to the unique ways in which the Chinese middle class has emerged and grown.

      As is widely known, the Mao era witnessed political attempts to bridge class gaps, heavy-industry-oriented economic strategies, and intervention in civil life through a particular ideology, all of which contributed...

    • CHAPTER FIVE The Chinese Middle Class and Xiaokang Society
      (pp. 104-132)

      China’s economic reform and social transformation have drawn academic attention to the issue of the middle class. This attention can be attributed to several factors. First, the proportion of a given population that is middle class is often used as a barometer of that population’s social equality. A healthy, sizable middle class is often regarded as the societal foundation for economic development and social stability. However, the concept of middle class should not be defined solely with respect to economic criteria, such as midlevel income, but should also include the group of citizens who creatively contribute to the formation of...

  7. PART III. Issues of Definition:: Compositional Differences and Internal Divisions in China’s Middle Class

    • CHAPTER SIX Characterizing China’s Middle Class: Heterogeneous Composition and Multiple Identities
      (pp. 135-156)

      Since the beginning of this century a social group with higher levels of income, education, and occupational prestige has been emerging in Chinese cities. In the popular media it is known as the middle class. Even though people dispute the exact definition of the termmiddle class,there is no doubt that this group exists in China and is expanding quickly.

      The group has attracted increasing attention from the public, business leaders, and policymakers, as well as from researchers in sociology, economics, and politics. Sociologists especially have had a long-standing interest in the group and have discussed many aspects of...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN China’s New Upper Middle Classes: The Importance of Occupational Disaggregation
      (pp. 157-176)

      In the course of thirty years of unbroken economic growth China’s class structure has experienced fundamental changes. While workers and peasants were the dominant classes before 1978, the structural and institutional transformation that followed has led to the rise of new social groups, which have subsequently changed the class maps of contemporary China. These new social groups, ranging from private entrepreneurs to professionals and managers in the nonstate sector, often fall into the broad category of middle class.

      The emergence of a new middle class in contemporary China inspires important questions concerning its social and political impact. Nevertheless, to answer...

  8. PART IV: Expanding China’s Middle Class:: Housing Reform and Educational Development

    • CHAPTER EIGHT China’s Housing Reform and Emerging Middle Class
      (pp. 179-192)

      Over the past decade China’s housing policy and housing market have experienced dramatic changes. Since the 1990s housing reforms have focused on the privatization of state-owned housing stock, and this market-provided housing has contributed significantly to the emergence and growth of a middle class in China. These reforms have led to profound changes in the distribution of housing and in homeownership in urban China, both of which greatly affect Chinese peoples’ social and economic lives.

      As a result, China has totally abandoned the old system of linking housing to one’s employment, as a welfare benefit. Government policies aimed at promoting...

    • CHAPTER NINE The Housing Effect: The Making of China’s Social Distinctions
      (pp. 193-216)

      It is not unusual for the social classifieds in urban Chinese newspapers and websites to include, when describing the qualities of a potential life partner, the following assertion: “Must own apartment and car.” In the largest remaining socialist country in the world, real estate has become a common signifier of middle-class status among urban families, and homeownership is widespread. Colorful apartment blocks and tall buildings, often with outlandish designs or sequestered behind gates, have almost entirely replaced the grey, inexpensive, low-rise edifices (inspired by Soviet functionalism) that were the dominant residential form during the first three decades of the People’s...

    • CHAPTER TEN Higher Education Expansion and China’s Middle Class
      (pp. 217-242)

      This chapter discusses China’s higher education expansion, which enables 23.3 percent of the college-aged population to attend universities. Twenty-six million students are enrolled in Chinese universities, and in 2009 the number of graduates reached 7 million. In the next ten years, China will increase enrollment by another 10 percent, according to Minister of Education Zhou Ji.¹ In the not so distant future, 50 percent of the age cohort will be studying in significantly revamped and upgraded universities.

      We argue that a potential massive middle class is being created through this breathtaking expansion of higher education, although the impact may take...

  9. PART V. The Chinese Middle Class in Comparative Perspective

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Placing China’s Middle Class in the Asia-Pacific Context
      (pp. 245-263)

      The rise of the middle class in East Asia first began to attract attention in the 1980s, followed in the 1990s by a similar discovery in Southeast Asia. Based on East and Southeast Asia’s experiences of the middle class, one can begin to characterize this newly born class as a whole. The middle classes of countries in the Asia-Pacific region are the direct structural creation of state-led industrialization strategies, the result of unprecedented upward mobility and affluence. These classes, though distinctive and distinguishable from other classes, are internally differentiated, diverse, and even segmented. More significant, the power relations between the...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Middle-Class Grassroots Identity and Participation in Citizen Initiatives, China and South Korea
      (pp. 264-288)

      The theme of this volume, beyond economic transformation, calls our attention to a potential political significance of China’s emerging middle class.¹ It invites us to see members of the middle class as actors or agents with value orientations and capable of making lifestyle choices rather than simply a statistical category convenient for social scientific analysis. Conventionally, the middle class has been seen as the product of macroeconomic forces, such as a country’s income distribution, occupational trends, and rate of urbanization. In this chapter, however, a social class is not treated simply as a class in itself but instead as a...

  10. PART VI. China’s Middle Class:: An Agent of the Status Quo or a Force for Change?

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN China’s Cooperative Capitalists: The Business End of the Middle Class
      (pp. 291-309)

      The central puzzle in understanding contemporary China is that dramatic economic changes are occurring in the absence of regime change. The key insight of modernization theory is that higher prosperity is strongly correlated with the probability of democracy: the richer a country is, the more likely it is to be a democracy. This has made the search for signs of democratic support within China a preoccupation of many China specialists. To date these signs are slight, but the search goes on. At the same time, the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are committed to promoting rapid economic growth...

    • CHAPTER FOURTEEN What Do Chinese Lawyers Want? Political Values and Legal Practice
      (pp. 310-333)

      Searching for vanguards of political reform in China has become a veritable cottage industry among social scientists. Scholars have identified—and disagree about—various sources of popular sentiment in Chinese society supportive of democracy. Regarding China’s incipient middle class, some argue that its members are, on the whole, conservative, while others argue the opposite.¹ On the whole, the political values and aspirations of the Chinese middle class appear from some survey data to be highly unified, while other data show them to be mostly incoherent.² With respect to their political values, differences between China’s “lower” and “middle” classes, which are...

    • CHAPTER FIFTEEN Attitudes toward Democracy and the Political Behavior of China’s Middle Class
      (pp. 334-358)
      JIE CHEN

      According to the most recent nationwide, representative sample survey conducted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in 2000 the middle class accounted for 12 percent of the total population in China. The vice minister of foreign trade and economic cooperation, chief trade representative of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), even predicted that by 2010 the size of the middle class would reach 30 percent of the population.¹ There is little doubt that the size and sociopolitical influence of the Chinese middle class will continue to grow as China continues to modernize. Facing such phenomenal emergence and expansion of...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 359-372)
  12. Contributors
    (pp. 373-380)
  13. Index
    (pp. 381-396)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 397-398)