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The City in ChinaNew Perspectives on Contemporary Urbanism$
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Ray Forrest, Julie Ren, and Bart Wissink

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781529205473

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781529205473.001.0001

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The Anxious Middle Class of Urban China

The Anxious Middle Class of Urban China

Its Emergence and Formation

Chapter:
(p.207) 11 The Anxious Middle Class of Urban China
Source:
The City in China
Author(s):

Tai-lok Lui

Shuo Liu

Publisher:
Policy Press
DOI:10.1332/policypress/9781529205473.003.0011

One of the most notable features of urbanization in China in the past two decades is the rise of an urban middle class. From the proliferation of nightlife entertainment in urban hot spots to the consumption of luxurious items and/or foreign brands, the drastic increase in car ownership to the growth of gated communities, cityscape in contemporary China has undergone drastic changes in the course of urbanization and socio-economic re-stratification. The rise of a newly formed middle class in the major cities is both an agent in shaping the changing cityscape and an outcome of current urban development. This chapter, drawing upon the authors’ observations conducted in a suburban middle-classcommunity in Beijing in 2007-2017 and the study of the middle class in Shanghai since the mid-1990s, reports on the emergence and formation of an urban middle class in contemporary Chinese cities. It is argued that this middle class came into existence when China’s economy was marketized and the social structure had undergone a major transformation as a result of such economic changes. Within a period of 20-25 years, there witnessed the birth of a middle class in the context of the transition to a post-socialist economy, the formation of new class identities and lifestyles, and growing class-related anxieties. Our discussion covers the formation of this urban middle class, its social and cultural outlooks, and an analysis of how their class interests shape the social landscape of the Chinese cities.

Keywords:   Middle class, Class identity, Class formation, Ambiguity, Anxiety

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