Canadian TV Show Features Interview with Professor Pei on China’s Emerging Middle Class

Minxin Pei P’11, the Tom and Margot Pritzker ’72 Professor of Government and director of the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies at CMC, was featured on TVOntario’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin on Tuesday, Dec. 14. The segment focused on a new publicationChina’s Emerging Middle Class, Beyond Economic Transformation (Brookings Institute Press 2010) edited by scholar Cheng Li, that examines the sociopolitical ramifications of the birth and growth of the Chinese middle class over the past two decades.

The study projects China will have a total of 520 million individuals (or 612 million if lower aspirants are included) by 2025accounting for 76 percent of the population. That would mean China having the world’s largest middle class within 15 years.

(Watch the 12-plus minute interview with Pei in full.)

Asked by Paikin if the term “middle class” is used in China, Pei answers: “Yes the term is very popular, but the definition of middle class is a subject of discussion.” To a follow-up from Paikin about whether that middle class has a strong sense of its own identity, Pei says, “The middle class in China is very diverse, so in terms of class identity it does not exist. The middle class is mostly a concept of social status.” Being a member of the middle class in China simply means “you have a certain level of income, a certain of level of education, and a certain level of professional qualification. But in terms of political value it doesn’t mean anything.”

However, commenting on the role of the middle class in Chinese society today, Pei says, “It certainly is the most dynamic segment of Chinese society.” The class represents the best educated as well as entrepreneurs and people who are well read and globally connected. “So in China today, the middle class is the most important social group,” Pei says.