Vanguards of consumption, laggards in politics? The emergence of a new middle class in South China

Tsang, Eileen Yuk-ha (2010). Vanguards of consumption, laggards in politics? The emergence of a new middle class in South China. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.


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This thesis considers the emergence of the new middle class in post-reform China. It argues that Western class categories do not directly apply to the Chinese situation and that the Chinese new middle class is distinguished more by sociocultural than by economic factors. Based upon qualitative interviews, the study looks at entrepreneurs, professionals and regional party cadres to show the networks among these different groups and the continuing significance of cadres. The study also looks at generational differences. The older generations are pragmatic and business-oriented, rather than personally oriented in their consumption. They also show strong collective identities, but these are based in personal networks rather than in a sense of a common class location that they share with others outside their personal networks. In contrast,the younger generations appear more flexible and hedonistic. They tend to be more individualistic, materialistic and oriented to personal gain. In neither older or younger generations is there much evidence that the Chinese middle class is taking on a political role in advocating political reform alongside market reforms as is suggested by some Western stratification theorists. They are in the vanguard of consumption but they are the laggards in politics.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology


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