Notes de l'Ifri Asie Visions

The Distinctive Features of China's Middle Classes Asie.Visions, No. 69, June 2014

This study seeks to lay the foundations for a better understanding of the Chinese middle classes. It goes beyond the traditional classification by revenue and identifies the distinctive features of China’s middle classes by taking into account relevant historical events, current sociopolitical and economic contexts, and key expectations of the population.


The features of Chinese middle classes are numerous and evolving rapidly in a context of economic transition, but the main characteristics can be summarized as follows:

- Chinese middle classes are still small in number and proportion.

- It is a “new” middle class, built during the last 20-30 years after the launch of Deng Xiaoping’s era of reform and opening up.

- In this context, members of the Chinese middle classes often seek to show their new class status through their living standards and consumption practices.

- At the same time, Chinese middle class households often share a strong feeling of instability, explaining their high rate of saving.

- Chinese middle classes maintain a relatively high degree of connection with the Communist Party and state institutions.

- Strong geographical as well as generation gaps exist within the middle class populations.

- The central government considers that an accelerated urbanization process will support the development of the middle class and ultimately help rebalance the current economic model towards domestic consumption.


The Distinctive Features of China's Middle Classes
socio-economic issues China