Democratization and the Middle Class in China: The Middle Class's Attitudes toward Democracy

By Chen, Jie; Lu, Chunlong | Political Research Quarterly, September 2011 | Go to article overview

Democratization and the Middle Class in China: The Middle Class's Attitudes toward Democracy


Chen, Jie, Lu, Chunlong, Political Research Quarterly


Abstract

Do the middle classes in authoritarian, late-developing countries support democratization? Among scholars, there seems no clear consensus on this question. To fill this gap, this article examines the case of the middle class in China, based on data collected from a probability-sample survey. The findings from this study indicate (1) the middle class does not necessarily support democratization in authoritarian developing countries, (2) there is a negative correlation between the middle class's dependence on the state and its support for democracy, and (3) the middle class's perceived social and economic well-being is also negatively associated with its democratic support.

Keywords

Chinese middle class, democratic attitudes, public opinion survey

As Chinese society has become increasingly modernized in the past three decades, the new middle class1 in China has steadily emerged as a salient socioeconomic and sociopolitical force. Facing such phenomenal emergence and expansion of the middle classes in China and other developing countries, political scientists and policy leaders have constantly pondered at least two important questions: Do the middle classes in developing countries support political democratization, when the political systems sanctioned by the states in these countries are nondemocratic? And why do or do not these social classes support democracy and democratization? These questions have a lot to do with predicting the role of the middle class in political change in the developing world as well as with understanding the dynamic relationship between economic modernization and political democratization in developing countries.

Among scholars of the middle class and democratization, however, there seems no clear consensus over these questions. Furthermore, almost none of the early studies on these issues are based on systematic probability samples of middle-class individuals in authoritarian, developing countries, samples that could provide more robust and conclusive findings on the attitudes of the middle class toward democracy and democratization in those countries. To help fill this gap in and contribute to the ongoing exploration of the role of the middle class in the developing world, this article examines the case of the middle class in the most populous developing country, China. Specifically, it attempts to shed some new light on both the level and sources of the middle class's democratic support, based on data collected from a probability sample survey conducted in three Chinese cities in late 2006 and early 2007 (see Survey and Sample, Supplemental Materials at http://prq.sagepub.com/supplemental). It is hoped that this study will not only help to illuminate the orientation of the middle class toward democratization in China but also examine some key propositions from earlier studies of the middle class's role in democratization in other developing countries.

Theories of Middle Class's Democratic Support

There is a large body of literature on the orientation of the middle class toward democracy and democratization (see, also, Literature on Democratization and the Role of the Middle Class in Democratization, Supplemental Materials). Within this general literature, there seem to be two distinct approaches. One can be considered a "unilinear" approach that draws on some aspects of modernization theory.2 This approach emphasizes the relationship between economic modernization and political democratization. It contends that as modernization unfolds in a society, the levels of the individual's income, education, socioeconomic mobility, and freedom valuation markedly increase. All these attributes in turn promote democratization in a nondemocratic society and strengthen the democratic institutions in a democratic society. According to this approach, more importantly, "the rising middle class universally embodies these [attributes]" and serves as the "main thrust of the democratization movement" (Hattori, Funatsu, and Torii 2003, 129-30).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Democratization and the Middle Class in China: The Middle Class's Attitudes toward Democracy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.