China's ethnic minorities and the middle classes: an overview
Purpose – The paper aims to discover the role of the middle classes in the development of the ethnic minorities of China, given the importance of the middle classes in international economic development in the modern age. Design/methodology/approach – The paper offers a definition of the “middle classes”, including both the economic and political aspects. It looks at these classes among the ethnic minorities of China through fieldwork and printed statistics and materials. Findings – The ethnic minorities were 8.41 per cent of the total population of China, according to the 2000 census. The paper finds that there are emerging middle classes among the ethnic minorities, especially some of them, including the Uygurs and Koreans of China. These middle classes are centres of entrepreneurship among the ethnic minorities, promoting development and modernization, but also intensifying inequalities. Their role is mainly economic, but also political; for example, there is some material on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in general and among the ethnic minorities in particular. There is some discussion on literacy and education among the ethnic minorities, on the grounds that middle classes do not emerge in the modern age without education. Originality/value – Although there is some research on the role of the middle classes in recent Chinese development, this is the first time that such a concept has been applied to the ethnic minorities.
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