An Evening in Middle Class Life October, 2009
There is a pattern in the west of seizing on negative China stories as definitive proof than revolution, or collapse, or the Second Coming are just around the corner. Debt and moral vacuum and lack of trust and cheating. But China is a big country, with a big middle class that is vested in ongoing stability. This is just a dinner story from ten years ago, with government friends from Hangzhou and Shaoxing. This is just middle class people relaxing and enjoying the holiday.
This story is also about middle class CCP members, and such an observation seems sorely overlooked in most discussions of China's future. I have no systematic data, but my educated guess is that a Venn diagram of Chinese middle class - however you wish to define them - would show great overlap with CCP membership. There are about 90 million CCP members. With some dual member households, let's speculate that comes to 60 million households. These are the people holding nearly all government jobs, heading up non-government organizations, teaching in high schools and universities, and owning many small and large businesses. Let's give those 60 million households one child and a grandparent or two, or four, and that is roughly the same as the size of the middle class. CCP is the middle class, and when writers talk about emerging democracy and civil society and middle class demands for voice, we should remember who we are talking about. The CCP is the bourgeoisie.