Where Is China's Middle Class?

According to Nate Berg, they're not to be found in the country's new megacities. In an article for The Atlantic Cities, Berg discusses a recent paper analyzing the outdated law preventing China's growth and prosperity from trickling down.

The paper, authored by geographer and University of Washington professor Kam Wing Chan, and published in the journal Eurasian Geography and Economics, points to a Mao-era rule, "that draws a harsh line between those from urban areas and those from rural ones," as the culprit.

Berg describes the conundrum created by the rule, called hukou, this way: "Urban citizens are given access to social services and welfare programs, including public education and affordable housing. Rural residents are not. Status is hereditary, meaning that once a family is in one tier it will always remain in that tier. This has been a problem for many rural residents who want to leave their agricultural lifestyles to earn the higher wages in cities working in factories or construction, but who are faced with slum-like living conditions and an effective low ceiling over their social and economic mobility.

The larger global effect is that the rising Chinese middle class that was supposed to purchase the goods manufactured in the developed and developing world with their new-found disposable income may never appear.

Full Story: Why China's Urbanization Isn't Creating a Middle Class

Comments

Prepare for the AICP Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $199
Planetizen Courses image ad

Planetizen Courses

Advance your career with subscription-based online courses tailored to the urban planning professional.
Starting at $14.95 a month
Red necktie with map of Boston

Tie one on to celebrate your city

Choose from over 20 styles of neckties imprinted with detailed city or transit maps.
$44.95
DVD Cover of The Story of Sprawl

The Story of Sprawl

See how America changed shape in this collection of historic films that visually document how sprawl evolved.
$29.99 for 2-DVD SET