THE ROLE OF THE CHINESE MIDDLE CLASS 1
Over the past few decades, China has embraced sweeping political andeconomic reform dogmas that have stimulated rapid industrial growth.In this regard, China has initiated market reforms, which have playeda fundamental role in transforming the country into a market-basedrather than a centrally planned economy thus leading to rapid socialand economic development. According to Popescu (2013), there has beenan increasingly growing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and asustainable economy in the China, which has helped in uplifting over800 million individuals out of poverty. China has also contributedimmensely towards the realization of the MDGs globally. However, themarket conditions are erratic, and thus China needs to remainvigilant to maintain its economic development and possibly attain itsgoal of becoming the world’s super power. Fortunately, the middleclass has been indispensable in helping China achieve this objective.The studies show that the explosive growth and rapid emergence of theChinese middle class have acted as a propelling force towards shapingChina’s path of development making it stand as the current secondlargest economy globally. Irrefutably, with the rise of middle classin China, there would be greater and inevitable demands for furthereconomic and political reforms, which would promote more prosperityand growth.
Firstly, Chinese middle class remains essential in advocating fordemocracy and democratization based on principles such as rightsconsciousness, political liberty, and support for participatorycustom. Chinese prioritize and conceptualize particular democraticprinciples quite differently compared to other societies. Althoughthe China’s political power is founded on the traditional culture,which substantially opposes the democratic norms, the emergence ofthe middle class has helped to visualize the necessity for individualrights in day-to-day operations (Chen & Lu, 2011). Formerly, theemphasis of the collective interests in the China’s leadership hasbeen a setback towards the development strategies since the low andmiddle classes have frequently been disadvantaged, and they rarelycontributed in various development programs. However, withmodernization and pressure from the rising middle-class population,there have been some aspects of democratization in the China’sleadership, which have been essential in transforming the Chinesesociety in terms of education, socioeconomic mobility, individual’sincome, and entrepreneurial independence among others (Lu, 2007).China could perform better economically if a significant number ofthe middle class had an opportunity to participate in legislativedecision-making. In this way, they would be not only ordinaryeconomic boosters but also empowered political reformers.
According to Chen & Lu (2011), the emergence of the middle classalso assists in shaping the Chinese political structure. The middleclass as a societal group mutually demonstrates substantialvariations from other classes regarding particular characteristics ofits behavior although not in many aspects. Precisely, the Chinesemiddle class appears to be more concerned about China’s politicscompared to other social classes. This group usually relies oninformal channels to express their grievances when frustrated by someof the government officials or policies. Indeed, the ChineseCommunist Party (CCP) has reserved a stringent authoritarianpolitical system, and thus the middle class has little or no chanceof engaging in formal negotiations with the government (Lu, 2007).Therefore, they seek to have a direct representation in thegovernment so they can enjoy their civil rights and carry out theirentrepreneurial activities without too many disruptions. The pressurefrom this group has helped in changing some of the social valuesmainly concerning technological advancements thus strengtheningnetworking primarily in business related matters.
In addition, the middle class unleashes an incredibleentrepreneurial potential in China. The wealthy formerly used tocontrol the Chinese economic structure owing to the old ideologies,which controlled the market economy. Nonetheless, the emergence ofthe Chinese middle class has restructured the entire market system.As a result, there has been closure or streamlining of the majorityof the state-owned businesses thus allowing a considerable number ofyoung talented employees to take over the management role in severalcorporations. Importantly, the middle class has now started theirprivate businesses making them independent entrepreneurs. Thistransformation has led to increased demand for well-informedemployees in both private and public sectors thus offering moreopportunities for individuals to improve their welfare (Popescu,2013). In fact, the Chinese middle class presently includes thepeople employed by the professional agencies, party, and socialinstitutions as well as technical staff working in variousstate-owned organizations and corporations. Previously, access to themajority of these jobs was partial, and the basic pay wasconsiderably small, but the escalated demand for well-informed staffin nearly all levels has raised salaries significantly. Therefore,most of the middle-class people are motivated to engage in country’seconomic activities owing to this guaranteed free and fairentrepreneurial capacity.
The increased emphasis on knowledgeable and experienced employees hasrevolutionized Chinese education system. The Chinese education systemis structured in a way that it equips all children irrespective oftheir social class with the necessary skills, which could enable themto participate in the country’s development projects. Chinese arecurrently investing heavily in their children’s education. Indeed,Chinese parents especially the middle class emphasize largely oneducating their children to compete effectively in the job market andto take advantage of the high wages and salaries (Chen & Lu,2011). However, the possibilities for financial and social bettermentthrough learning are finite in nature because private networks arestill imperative nowadays and thus someone who wishes to secure aleading position in either private or public sector must have suchnetworks. Despite this networking concern, the middle-classindividuals have pressurized the Chinese government to ensureequality in employment and distribution of natural resources. Thus,the importance of both elementary and higher-level education hasgrown accordingly because nearly all types of jobs either private orpublic fundamentally require an advanced level of formal education.
The middle class also remains a crucial pillar in shaping theconsumption patterns in China. With mounting prosperity, Chinesemiddle class has changed their consumption patterns markedly to matchthose of the West developed nations. As a result, both domestic andglobal companies now target the Chinese middle class as their primarymarket (Tang, 2011). Indeed, Chinese middle class could be the mainconsumer group worldwide and could share a considerable percentage ofthe global customer demand thus becoming the driving force towardsthe transnational economy in the near future. China is already theleading market in some of the sectors owing to the increased numberof middle-class people. For instance, China has become the leadingseller of vehicles and mobile phone accessories more than any othernation in the world. Statistics portray that Nokia, one of the globalmobile phone manufacturer, generates almost three times revenues inChina compared to the United States. The middle class acts a hub forindustrial development in China in all sectors ranging fromelectronics manufacturing to engineering services.
The high middle-class population has also led to increased sales inthe local Chinese firms because the rise in demand has consequentlystirred large-scale production of the products. Importantly, as theChina’s companies seek to meet tastes and preferences of theChinese middle class, they have been able to exploit other potentialmarkets across the globe such as Africa (Tomlin, 2011). In this way,Chinese firms have gained a considerable market share in regions theyhad never reached thus adding up to their economic growth. The riseof middle class in China has also led to more diversification andinnovations, which have not only benefited China but also othernations worldwide. China’s products are available in nearly allparts of the globe owing to their increased demand since they areproduced in such a way that matches consumers’ needs. However,despite the concerns that the growth of the Chinese middle class andever-changing consumption patterns exert pressure to the naturalresources, China has employed innovative measures to efficientlyutilize the scarce resources and most importantly address anypossible environmental challenges. Undeniably, Chinese middle classhas been indispensable towards transforming production and themarketing strategies in China thus making the country moreindustrious.
Nonetheless, some scholars question the role of middle class towardsthe growth of China’s economy. Some of these structural-orientedresearchers argue that the middle class remains a small minoritywithin the Chinese community, and consequently, they are lessprobable to become a democratic force (Lu, 2007). Besides, they claimthat Chinese middle class is autocratic or anti-democratic by nature.In this regard, antagonists suggest that a dominant middle-classnation tends to be unfair in the allocation of the socioeconomicresources and thus Chinese middle class either has an insignificantor little contribution towards the economic growth of China.
Despite the concerns raised by the antagonists, their arguments aredispensable and groundless. Equality does not depend on inheritedsocial position but primarily relies on individual, education, andoccupation achievements. Consequently, a society characterized by asignificant middle-class population has a high level of socialflexibility, which fosters better trading environment. According tothe modernization philosophers, economic growth changes a nation’ssocial system from the pyramid-shaped form to the diamond-shapedtype, in which most of the population is middle class (Tang, 2011).Incidentally, the existence of Chinese middle class helps in reducingthe proportion of the lower class individuals who are most vulnerableto extremist forces and ideologies. Thus, it is evident that themiddle class remains important to every developing country sinceeconomic growth results in affluent middle class, which assists inattaining a democratic system and fostering the development of anynation either developing or developed.
In conclusion, China growth and development could be significantlyattributed to the middle-class population. This group has helpedChinese government to make impressive steps in the human capitalinvestment, education, production, and exploration of new marketsamong others. Indeed, the middle class has enabled China to have arelatively stable domestic and foreign market share. Additionally,Chinese middle class has played a central role in ensuring theChinese Communist Party maintains legitimacy in its administrationand policies directed towards development agendas. Despite differentcultural and political values influenced by increasing socioeconomiceminences related to modernization and varying individual insightsconcerning governance, the middle class has helped to uphold valuesthat stimulate economic development.
Chen, J., & Lu, C. (2011). Democratization and the middle classin China: The middle class’s attitudes toward democracy. PoliticalResearch Quarterly, 64(3), 705-719.
Lu, C. (2007). The Middle Class and Political Change in China:Chinese Middle Class`s Attitudinal and Behavioral Orientations towardDemocracy. ProQuest.
Popescu, G. H. (2013). The social evolution of China’s economicgrowth. Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice, (1),88-93.
Tang, M. (2011). The political behavior of the Chinese middle class.Journal of Chinese Political Science, 16(4), 373.
Tomlin, J. L. (2011). Prospects for Political Reform in China.