A Look Into 163 Million New Middle-Class in China

Shilin Song China Market Analysis

As of July 2022, the number of “new middle-class” in China has reached 163 million, according to a new report published by QuestMobile. The number is still a fraction of China’s 1.4 billion total population, but the new middle-class is growing at a year-on-year rate of 15.6%, even with the impact of Covid and lockdowns. In contrast, the middle class size in the U.S. has been shrinking: They constitute 50% of the U.S. population as of 2021 – down from 54% in 2001, 59% in 1981, and 61% in 1971.

In this article, we will look at:

  • Chinese New Middle-Class definition, size, and growth rate
  • Audience insight: distribution, consumption capacity, and characteristics
  • How to reach the Chinese New Middle-Class online?

Who are the New Middle-Class in China?

The new middle-class population in China has the following characteristics:

  • Age: individuals between 25 and 40 years old
  • City: living in third-tier cities and above
  • Consumption willingness: medium & high willingness to spend online
  • Consumption capacity: online spending power exceeding 1,000 CNY or more
  • Tech savvy: in average, they use 33.3 different APPs per person per month, far exceeding the 26.9 APPs of the Internet average

As of July 2022, the “new middle-class” has grown to represent 13.7% of the total netizen population. It’s growing at 15.6% year-on-year and reached 163 million this year.

If we look into the details, things are getting more interesting:

Among Millennials, the Post-90s (people born between 1990 and 1999) are growing faster than the Post-80s (people born between 1980 and 1989). However, the post-90s generation is gaining more consumption capacity. Among them, 16.4% are considered users with high online consumption capacity (spend more than 3,000 CNY online).

china middle class age and growth
source: QuestMobile report; WalktheChat Analysis

Why does the Post-90s look more promising? That’s because they have been in the labor market for some years, so their income has risen. But, in contrast to the Post-80s, they have not yet shouldered the burden of caring for the whole family, mortgages of apartments or cars, etc, so they have more freedom and willingness to spend online.

Where is the New Middle-Class located in China?

Without a doubt, Tier-1 cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc, have the highest percentage of new middle-class. Surprising, Chongqing and Suzhou are also on the TOP5 list, leaving Shenzhen and Chengdu at TOP 6 and TOP 7.

More than one quarter (26.7%) of the New Middle-Class in China are living in the ten cities in below chart:

china middle class distribution in cities
source: QuestMobile report; WalktheChat Analysis

How to reach the Chinese New Middle-Class online?

The new middle-class are tech-savvy, so content-oriented social media such as Douyin and Red (Xiaohongshu) has become one of their primary source of information and entertainment.

china middle class social media usage time
source: QuestMobile report; WalktheChat Analysis

For example, China’s new middle-class spends more than double the time (+107.8%) on Red (Xiaohongshu) than last year. The rapid growth is because Red, as a pan-lifestyle platform, has become the source of inspiration and research for people who pursue a better quality of life. The typical exquisite content and influencers on Red are the benchmark for many new middle-class people in China. Working with Red influencers is an intelligent way to gather market feedback and improve brand awareness. 

Learn more about Red marketing: Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu) Marketing – A Complete Guide

In terms of pure usage time, Douyin is still the platform on which people spend most of their time. Because of the entertainment feature of Douyin content and the short-video format, people tend to spend more time on Douyin without noticing. The prolonged usage time and entertaining atmosphere on Douyin make it a perfect platform for advertising: while being entertained, people are more likely to accept a piece of advertisement. 

Learn more about social media advertising in China: China Social Ads: how to run effective ads on WeChat, Douyin, and Red

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