Economic reform in the People’s Republic of China [PRC] since 1980 has seen the emergence of new categories of wealth and power.
Among Western scholars, David S. G. Goodman has used the concept of the “new middle class” to describe the people who have power and wealth in China today. In particular he studied the new middle class in Shanxi province in the north-west, dividing them into into three major categories: owner-operators; managers, including state capitalists, social capitalists and suburban executives; and service providers. The evidence from surveys of new rich entrepreneurs conducted since the early 1990s in different parts of the PRC (Zhejiang, Shanxi, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Hainan) suggests that describing their experience in terms of an emergent middle class may present further comparative misunderstandings. In terms of wealth, China’s new rich are hardly middle ranked income households by any standard. While there are some new style entrepreneurs who are not very wealthy, most of the new rich earn and are worth several times the national averages. Introducing a very new and exciting research topic, Goodman showed, not only his expertise, but also his knowledge of China and understanding of her people in his interview based research work covering several areas of China. Yet he admits that his research is still only a drop in the ocean and reflective only of the people interviewed and areas studied.