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Chinese Consumption: The Missing Link

June 16, 20232 Min Read
June 16, 2023
2 Min Read
China consumption

Kasia Kiladis



At 54.5% in 2021, China's consumption rate as a percentage of GDP is relatively low compared to other developed countries. Contributing factors include high savings rates, income inequality, and government policy.

One key factor behind China’s high savings rates is the cultural emphasis on saving for the future. Chinese households tend to save a significant portion of their income as a form of financial security. While high savings rates contribute to financial stability, they also reduce disposable income available for consumption.

Income inequality is another significant factor affecting China’s consumption rate. Despite impressive economic growth over the past few decades, China still faces significant income disparities. The wealth gap between urban and rural areas, as well as among different regions, remains substantial. This inequality limits the purchasing power of the lower-income population and hampers overall consumption.

Stimulating Consumption

Tax cuts have been introduced to provide individuals with more disposable income, encouraging them to spend. Increased infrastructure spending aims to generate employment opportunities and boost consumer demand. Additionally, the expansion of social welfare programs, such as healthcare and pension reforms, aims to alleviate the financial burdens on households and increase their willingness to consume.  

China is home to the largest middle class in the world and is set to grow further still. According to The Boston Consulting Group’s recent 2023 China’s Future Consumer report, China is projected to add a staggering 80 million people to the middle and upper classes between 2022 and 2030. This significant expansion would result in the middle and upper classes accounting for nearly 40 percent of the total population by that time. Notably, more than 70 percent of these new middle-class individuals are expected to emerge from third-tier cities or below, signifying a growing consumption power in lower-tier markets in the coming decade.

China recognises that a growing middle class plays a significant role in domestic consumption and driving economic development and has committed to income and wealth redistribution to bridge the income gap and create a more equitable society. As incomes have risen, so has the demand for consumer goods. People are now more able and willing to spend on various commodities such as cars, housing, education, healthcare, and travel. Consequently, the middle class has become an important avenue for China to achieve a higher degree of economic self-reliance by leveraging domestic demand for goods and services.  

The Role of the Middle Class

China’s commitment to nurturing a thriving middle class as a driving force for sustainable economic development and social stability is evident in its strategic plans. The 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) specifically highlights the goal of expanding the middle-income group, while President Xi Jinping’s pledge during the 2022 Chinese Communist Party Congress aims to substantially grow the middle-income group as a percentage of the total population by 2035.

Urbanization and housing policies are also designed to support the middle class. The government has initiated various measures, such as affordable housing programs and reforms to the hukou system, which restricts access to social benefits based on residency status. These policies aim to improve living conditions, enhance social mobility, and enable the middle class to contribute more actively to consumption.

Education and skill development are critical aspects of empowering the middle class and facilitating upward mobility. The Chinese government has prioritized investments in education, vocational training, and skill development to enhance human capital. By equipping individuals with the necessary knowledge, the government aims to create a workforce that can adapt to changing market demands and contribute to economic growth.  

China’s middle class will be a crucial engine of economic development, transforming the country into a consumption-driven economy. Its rising incomes, changing consumption patterns, and aspirations for a better quality of life will further shape China’s domestic landscape, social dynamics, and global economic relations.  

Kasia Kiladis



At 54.5% in 2021, China's consumption rate as a percentage of GDP is relatively low compared to other developed countries. Contributing factors include high savings rates, income inequality, and government policy.


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