Since my last post about the definition of the Chinese middle class was considered “all too simple,” I dug out a comprehensive study: Emergence of the Chinese middle class and its implications. It’s a well-researched and well-documented research paper by He Li. The paper approaches the definition of the Chinese middle class from different angles such as lifestyle, income classification, occupation, and self-perception, and here is what it says:
Economists and sociologists have defined what they believe will compose the Chinese “middle class” of the future. They suggest that five categories of people will represent the middle class: scientific development entrepreneurs, Chinese managerial staff working in foreign firms in China, middle level managerial staff in state-owned financial intuitions, professional technicians in various fields, especially in intermediary firms, and some self-employed private entrepreneurs.
(If you don’t know what “scientific development entrepreneurs” means, me either, but I guess it probably means “entrepreneurs in high-tech industry”).
Two young women in front of a Starbucks in Hangzhou
For those who are interested, the paper has an in-depth analysis and discussion about the political implications of the Chinese middle class. Although it still comes to a “wishy-washy” conclusion, it provides great insights on Chinese society and gives a real sense of what is happening in China. Despite the clumsiness in language, it is one of the best research papers I have read on the subject.
There are many implications on the middle class in China, democracy being just one of them. The debates that over-emphasize the political implications are missing the point, because I believe China will come to democracy – in its own time and on its own terms. It may or may not even depend on the middle class, as the paper suggests.
The showroom of an interior designer for Chinese homes
And there are many fascinating aspects of the Chinese middle class that the world needs to understand; in addition to all the implications for business, there are environmental issues that could endanger the humanity’s common future; there are things that the world may want to learn from China, as China is learning from the world, and there are ties that bind us stronger than we realize, because at the end of the day we see that we share the same dreams!
That is my interest in taking on this project, and that is what my book on the Chinese middle class is all about.