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Class Formation and Consumption among Middle-Class Professionals in Shenzhen

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  • Jacqueline Elfick

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Abstract

This paper explores the role of consumption in defining Chinese middle-class identity by examining the consumption practices of urban professionals. It is widely agreed that China has a thriving middle class. The exact definition of this middle class, however, is disputed by scholars and the Chinese popular press. Debates about class are also manifest in the daily lives of urban professionals. One of the most interesting areas in which identity is contested is that of consumption. The research is based on 60 in-depth interviews among professionals conducted in Shenzhen in the period 2004-2010. New wealth means that the myriad of goods on offer is accessible to large sections of the urban population. Professionals have become keen and selective shoppers. Many describe their consumption practices as informed by their own highly individualistic taste. This paper argues that professional consumption practices sometimes express individual taste but, more importantly, serve to articulate a collective social identity.

Suggested Citation

  • Jacqueline Elfick, 2011. "Class Formation and Consumption among Middle-Class Professionals in Shenzhen," Journal of Current Chinese Affairs - China aktuell, Institute of Asian Studies, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, vol. 40(1), pages 187-211.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:chaktu:v:40:y:2011:i:1:p:187-211
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    File URL: http://hup.sub.uni-hamburg.de/giga/jcca/article/view/408
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Zhongdong Ma, 2001. "Urban labour-force experience as a determinant of rural occupation change: evidence from recent urban - rural return migration in China," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 33(2), pages 237-255, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bonnefond, Céline & Clément, Matthieu, 2014. "Social class and body weight among Chinese urban adults: The role of the middle classes in the nutrition transition," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 22-29.
    2. Céline BONNEFOND & Matthieu CLEMENT, 2015. "Does social class affect nutrition knowledge and food preferences among Chinese urban adults?," Working Papers 2014-2015_10, CATT - UPPA - Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour, revised Apr 2015.

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    Keywords

    Middle class; Consumption; Identity;

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