Class Formation and Consumption among Middle-Class Professionals in Shenzhen

Jacqueline Elfick


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.

Full Text: PDF (English)

Logo von Hamburg University Press und der Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg Carl von Ossietzky Logo des GIGA-Institut Logo der Deutschen Forschungsgemeinschaft Logo der Leibniz-Gesellschaft