Tag Archives: middle-class

The middle-class protest in urban China

Shi, Fayong (2014). Improving local governance without challenging the State: the middle-class protest in urban China. China: An International Journal, 12 (1), pp. 153-162.

The first decade of the new century had seen an increase in rights-protection protests in urban China. The main participants of these protests were local middle-class residents who initiated protests to raise issues on specific economic and social problems as opposed to abstract sociopolitical issues. They have started to claim rights which were granted to citizens by law in principle but never actually delivered. The sociopolitical changes facilitate the emergence and success of middle-class protests, which in turn have contributed to the improvement of local governance and positively reshaped local politics. However, their influence on the macro political structure of China remains to be seen.

Full text available on Projet MUSE (restricted access)


Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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China’s future and scarcity

Ma, Damien and Adams, William (2013). In line behind a billion people : how scarcity will define China’s ascent in the next decade. Pearson Education, FT Press, 352 p. ISBN: 978-0-13-313389-9.

Within a decade, China will have the world’s largest economy. In this book, two China experts turn the conventional wisdom on its head, showing why China’s economic growth will constrain rather than empower it. Political analyst Damien Ma and global economist William Adams reveal why, having 35 years of ferocious economic growth, China’s future will be shaped by the same fundamental reality that has shaped it for millennia: scarcity. Ma and Adams drill deep into Chinese society, showing all the scarcities that will limit its power and progress. Beyond scarcities of natural resources and public goods, they illuminate China’s persistent poverties of individual freedoms, cultural appeal, and ideological legitimacy — and the corrosive loss of values and beliefs amongst a growing middle class shackled by a parochial and inflexible political system.

Download sample pages (Table of contents, Introduction and Index)

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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An ethnographic eye on Kunming

Li Zhang (2011), In search of paradise. Middle-class living in a Chinese metropolis, Cornell University Press.,This book is also available as an ebook from Amazon/Kindle and Kobo.

  • Winner, 2012 Robert E. Park Award for Best Book (American Sociological Association’s Community and Urban Sociology Section)
  • Winner, 2011 Francis L. K. Hsu Book Prize (Society for East Asian Anthropology)

A new revolution in homeownership and living has been sweeping the booming cities of China. This time the main actors on the social stage are not peasants, migrants, or working-class proletariats but middle-class professionals and entrepreneurs in search of a private paradise in a society now dominated by consumerism. No longer seeking happiness and fulfillment through collective sacrifice and socialist ideals, they hope to find material comfort and social distinction in newly constructed gated communities. This quest for the good life is profoundly transforming the physical and social landscapes of urban China.

Li Zhang, who is from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, turns a keen ethnographic eye on her hometown. She combines her analysis of larger political and social issues with fine-grained details about the profound spatial, cultural, and political effects of the shift in the way Chinese urban residents live their lives and think about themselves. In Search of Paradise is a deeply informed account of how the rise of private homeownership is reconfiguring urban space, class subjects, gender selfhood, and ways of life in the reform era.

New, seemingly individualistic lifestyles mark a dramatic move away from yearning for a social utopia under Maoist socialism. Yet the privatization of property and urban living have engendered a simultaneous movement of public engagement among homeowners as they confront the encroaching power of the developers. This double movement of privatized living and public sphere activism, Zhang finds, is a distinctive feature of the cultural politics of the middle classes in contemporary China. Theoretically sophisticated and highly accessible, Zhang’s account will appeal not only to those interested in China but also to anyone interested in spatial politics, middle-class culture, and postsocialist governing in a globalizing world.

Reviews of  In Search of Paradise: Middle-Class Living in a Chinese Metropolis  in JSTOR

Jacqueline Nivard

Jacqueline Nivard, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine

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