Past Event

China’s Prosperous Middle Class and Consumption-Led Growth: Catching up with the West?

October 30, 2023
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
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Columbia University, Low Library, Faculty Room 207, 116th Street and Broadway

The Weatherhead East Asian Institute and the Jerome A. Chazen Institute for Global Business are pleased to announce the Fourteenth Annual N.T Wang Distinguished Lecture “China’s Prosperous Middle Class and Consumption-Led Growth: Catching up with the West?” featuring Terry Sicular, Professor of Economics, Western University  and moderated by Qin Gao, Professor and Associate Dean for Doctoral Education, Director of China Center for Social Policy, Columbia University School of Social Work.

In recent years China has called for the pursuit of the interconnected goals of ‘common prosperity’ and of macroeconomic rebalancing from investment-led to consumption-led growth. Do we in fact see in China the emergence of a prosperous middle class, one with incomes and spending power similar to middle-class households in the West? And, is this prosperous middle class generating the consumption needed for China to achieve consumption-led growth? Professor Terry Sicular provides answers to these questions based on the analysis of household survey data spanning the years 2002 through 2018. The analysis reveals the emergence and rapid growth of a prosperous middle class in China during this period. Growth of this prosperous middle class, however, did not bring about proportionate growth in aggregate consumption, and features of this class raise questions about its potential to support future consumption-led growth. These findings point to challenges going forward for China’s macroeconomic policy agenda.

Speaker Bios: 

Terry Sicular is an economist who specializes on the Chinese economy. Her research combines economic analysis with knowledge of China’s history, political economy and institutions, and makes use of evidence from fieldwork, survey data, and primary Chinese source materials. Recent publications include the co-edited book Changing Trends in China’s Inequality (Oxford Univ. Press) and journal articles “Catching up with the West: Chinese Pathways to the Global Middle Class” (The China Journal) and “The Long-term Evolution of National Income Inequality and Rural Poverty in China” (China Economic Review). She is a two-time recipient of the Sun Yefang Prize in Economic Science. Since 2000 she has been a lead member of the China Household Survey Project (CHIP), an international collaborative survey research project. She has served as consultant to governmental and non-governmental organizations such as the World Bank, United Nations, and Asian Development Bank. She is Professor Emerita of Economics at Western University (Canada), a Research Associate at the SOAS China Institute, University of London (UK), and an honorary guest professor at Beijing Normal University. She is an alumna of Pomona College and received her doctorate in economics from Yale University.

Qin Gao is Professor of Social Policy and Social Work and Associate Dean for Doctoral Education at the Columbia University School of Social Work and the Founding Director of the Columbia China Center for Social Policy. Dr. Gao studies poverty, inequality, social policy, migration, and child development in China and their international comparisons. She currently leads The State of Chinese Americans Survey and is a member of the New York City Longitudinal Survey of Wellbeing study research team. She is also on the faculty of the Committee on Global Thought and Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University and a Public Intellectual Fellow of the National Committee on United States-China Relations. Qin Gao’s book, Welfare, Work, and Poverty: Social Assistance in China (Oxford University Press, 2017) presents a systematic evaluation of the world’s largest social welfare program, Dibao. Her co-edited book, China Urbanizing: Impacts and Transitions (Penn Press, 2022), captures China’s urbanization in its historical and regional variations and explores its multifaceted impacts. Dr. Gao’s work has been supported by multiple national and international funding sources such as the Asian Development Bank, UNICEF, and the World Bank.

Dr. Gao holds a BA from China Youth University of Political Studies (China), an MA from Peking University (China), and an MPhil and PhD from the Columbia School of Social Work. She has been interviewed by media outlets such as the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs; the Council on Foreign Relations; and SupChina’s Sinica Podcast.


5:00-6:00PM - Lecture In Faculty Room 207
6:00-7:00PM - Reception in Rotunda

This event is hosted by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and the Jerome A. Chazen Institute for Global Business, and cosponsored by China Center for Social Policy and the China and the World Program at Columbia University.

Registration: To attend this event in-personplease register HERE

2023.10.30 - 14th Annual NT Wang _banner

Contact Information

Julie Kwan