Identity and Behaviour
CSC China Perspectives series
Edited by Minglu Chen and David S.G. Goodman
Chapter 3: Urban housing-status-groups: consumption, lifestyles and identity
In the past three decades, commensurate with China’s high-speed economic development, the centre of domestic consumption has switched from food in the 1980s, to electronic goods in the early 1990s, to apartments, houses, automobiles and new leisure activities in the mid-1990s (Davis, 2000; Croll, 2006, pp. 32–57). To maintain the powerful engine of China’s economic growth, the state created a group of consumers who had the ability to carry out the consumption ‘revolution’ that has been taking place since the 1980s (Zhang, X.Q., 2002; Zhang and Yap, 2002). As in other developed countries, the purchase of a new house constitutes the highest-cost and longest-term purchase a household is ever likely to make. With the gradual maturation of the housing market in China, home purchase has become more than a mere consumption good; it has also become an investment for urban residents. Nationwide, annual investment in commercial housing has tripled from 422 billion RMB in 2001 to 1364 billion RMB in 2006, and the area sold for commercial housing has increased from 199 million m2 in 2001 to 554 million m2 in 2006 (China Real Estate Statistics Yearbook, 2007, pp. 4–6, 2009, p. 3). National statistics reveal that the urban homeownership rate for the nation as a whole reached 80 per cent in 2004 (Hou, 2005). In addition to its economic significance, the transformation of China’s urban housing sector is also a process that has created new social groups and class subjects who are defined by their capacity for consumption and their pursuit of a ‘comfortable life’
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