In This Review

A Middle Class Without Democracy: Economic Growth and the Prospects for Democratization in China
A Middle Class Without Democracy: Economic Growth and the Prospects for Democratization in China
By Jie Chen
Oxford University Press, 2013, 240 pp

About a quarter of the Chinese population is now middle class. Classic modernization theory predicts that these new middle-class citizens will push for democracy. But as earlier researchers have pointed out, few have done so. Chen attributes this restraint to three factors. The middle class depends on the state-dominated economy for its prosperity, it is relatively satisfied with the state’s provision of urban services, and it fears the disruptive potential of the lower classes, which still form a large majority. Middle-class Chinese want individual rights, but they are less likely than workers and farmers to support democratizing reforms that they fear might destabilize the government. Chen’s study relies chiefly on survey research, which makes it difficult to uncover the effects of the fear of repression, and of the government’s control of information, on people’s attitudes. Chen believes that middle-class support for the government could weaken if economic conditions worsen or if economic liberalization reduces the dependence of the middle class on the state.