When trying to understand this new group of people—an unprecedented middle to Chinese society —the first task is to get a grip on the slippery terminology.
“My preference is to discard the term ‘middle class’ because it comes with certain freight,” says Arthur Kroeber, co-founder of Gavekal Dragonomics, a research firm based in Beijing. As Kroeber explains it, someone of Fu Cong’s description aligns very closely with what we think of the Western middle class—home, car, vacation, white-collar job, the whole lot. But identification of people with a certain lifestyle can get in the way of understanding the significance of this group within China.
“Because you use the word ‘middle,’ I think everyone has embedded in their mind that if you did an income distribution curve, [they are] the people who are in the middle,” says Kroeber. “But by even the most generous estimate, this is a small minority of the total population, and it basically represents the economic elite in China, so it’s not the ‘middle’ of anything.”More in Knowledge CKGSB.
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