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How China’s Middle Class Views the Trade War

Although It Has Faulted Xi, It May Soon Blame Trump

People walk after the rain along the Bund near the Huangpu River in Shanghai, August 2011.  Carlos Barria / REUTERS

The trade war between Washington and Beijing has been analyzed largely through the lens of state-to-state relations. But any attempt to fully assess how the dispute will affect China’s domestic development and foreign engagement must take into account the country’s dynamic middle class, which has suffered the brunt of the ill effects from the trade war. The Chinese middle class’ political clout and fickle views are among the most intriguing—and consequential—factors affecting U.S.-Chinese relations. Without a solid grasp of the complicated relationship between the Chinese leadership and the country’s middle class, American policymakers and analysts may have difficulty accurately gauging the efficacy of U.S. trade policy toward China.

Over the past few months, members of China’s middle class have been noticeably critical—especially in online public discourse—of the Chinese government’s economic and sociopolitical policies, including the way the leadership

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