The Paradox of Middle-Class Attitudes in China: Democracy, Social Stability, and Reform

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This article explores the seemingly paradoxical attitudes of the Chinese middle class towards democracy, social stability, and reform. Using fieldwork data from Ningbo, this article shows that a group of objective, middle-class individuals can concurrently display high levels of support for democratic principles and low levels of participation in real-life socio-political events. Being generally confident in China’s social stability, these individuals have little to no desire for significant democratic reform, or indeed any reform that occurs outside the purview of the state, as it is considered destabilising. By highlighting the distinction between how these members of the middle class respond to generic democratic concepts, real-life socio-political affairs, and the idea of democratic reform, this article argues that the Chinese middle class are aware of what “should be,” what “could be,” and what “is,” which lends their socio-political attitudes a paradoxical appearance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-190
JournalJournal of Current Chinese Affairs
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

Bibliographical note

The Journal of Current Chinese Affairs is an Open Access publication.
It may be read, copied and distributed free of charge according to the conditions of the
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


  • China
  • Chinese middle class
  • social stability
  • political reform
  • political expectation


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