Within A Generation, China Middle Class Four Times Larger Than America's

A recent tweet from Oppenheimer Funds reminds us of the massive scale of growth of China’s middle class, Forbes reports:

Within a generation, the middle class in China will be roughly four times the size of the American middle class population, according to the UN Population Division and Goldman Sachs. By 2030, China should have approximately 1.4 billion middle class consumers compared to 365 million in the U.S. and 414 million in Western Europe. India is next, with its citizens moving up the income ladder and reaching a sizeable 1.07 billion in a little under 20 years.

Oppenheimer Funds tweeted that reminder to its 7,300-plus followers on Labor Day, an irony considering that U.S. middle class remains the world’s most coveted consumer. And is on the verge of being overshadowed. America’s hold on global middle class society and even culture is eroding, though not at the expense of the U.S. middle class population.

While Oppenheimer may be looking at the rising consumer power of China’s middle class, an article in the Economist looks at people power, and how it is also rising among the middle class in emerging markets:

Rebellion is in the air in China, too. In mid-August one of the largest demonstrations since the Tiananmen Square protests took place on the streets of Dalian, a north-eastern boomtown, which forced the authorities to shut down a chemical factory that had been damaged in a storm. Demonstrations and capitulations on this scale, though not unprecedented, are highly unusual. This one was reminiscent of the outcry that took place in 2007, in the southern city of Xiamen, over plans for a similar project. That event is usually seen as the first big example of a new willingness by China’s middle class to confront the government over environmental abuses. Moreover, the Dalian protest erupted only weeks after an explosion of popular anger, mostly expressed through micro-blogging services such as Sina Weibo, which blamed official neglect for a rail crash between two new high-speed trains that killed 39 people. The criticism was so widespread that even state-supervised media joined in.

The crash was the more sensitive because, in February, China’s parliament had sacked the minister responsible for building the high-speed network. He was accused of skimming off 1 billion yuan ($152m) in bribes and of keeping 18 mistresses. Another top official in the rail ministry was later dismissed for corruption, and state auditors said millions had been embezzled from the high-speed network.

[...] In rich countries the humbling of governments has been largely a result of economic slowdown, combined with problems in controlling public finances. Emerging markets, in contrast, have kept growth going, while public spending is (mostly) under control. The explanation for their political woes must lie elsewhere. The most plausible one is that India and China—and possibly other emerging markets, too—are experiencing the early stirrings of political demands by the growing ranks of their middle classes.

September 5, 2011 9:24 PM
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