The Puzzle of the Chinese Middle Class

Issue Date April 2016
Volume 27
Issue 2
Page Numbers 5-19
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The Chinese middle class differs from the middle class of Lipset’s classic theory in four ways. It is a smaller fraction of the population. It is directly or indirectly dependent on the state. It is new, with most of its members the first generation of their families to achieve this status. And its associational life is severely restricted. Although middle class persons have more prodemocratic attitudes than other Chinese, few are prepared to oppose the current regime. However, their support for the regime is fragile and subject to erosion, especially if economic conditions worsen.

About the Author

Andrew J. Nathan is Class of 1919 Professor of Political Science at Columbia University and a member of the steering committee of the Asian Barometer Survey. His books include China’s Search for Security (with Andrew Scobell, 2012).

View all work by Andrew J. Nathan