Middle Classes in China: Force for Political Change or Guarantee of Stability?

Luigi Tomba


Abstract

This article looks at the factors that contributed to the production of a Chinese middle class during the reform period and to the role that a growing group of big spenders and consumers play for China’s economic growth and political stability. It argues that a dramatic status enhancement for wage-earning Chinese professionals was among the major determinants of social change in the late 1990s and that this process happened despite the market more than because of it. The ongoing development of a high-consuming urban society in China has been as much the outcome of the social engineering project of the contemporary reformist state and its agencies as it has been a consequence of the opening up of the economy and society.

Keywords

China; class

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