“China in Transition”
By Sheridan Prasso
strategy+business | September 19, 2011
China’s burgeoning middle class has been a powerful source of political, social, and economic stability . . . But pressures on the Chinese middle class are increasing as well: Inflation is rising, a property bubble keeps young families from buying real estate, and a large number of college graduates are unable to find jobs.
All this is putting enormous pressure on China’s leadership, says Cheng Li, a political scientist from Shanghai who is director of research at the Brookings Institution’s John L. Thornton China Center. . . . Li was in New York in May to speak at a conference organized by the Committee of 100, a nonprofit focusing on U.S.-China relations. . . .
S+B: Can the world’s resources handle 1.3 billion increasingly active Chinese consumers?
LI: The rise of the Chinese middle class is a mixed blessing. As China transitions from an export-led economy to a consumption-led economy, the global environmental and ecological implications will be overwhelming. But I think the Chinese government should avoid [encouraging] today’s progress at tomorrow’s expense. For example, if China continues to adopt a model in which every family owns a car, it would be a huge [environmental and infrastructure] disaster for the country, with repercussions for already strained resources that could be felt around the world. . . .