Dexter Tiff Roberts, nonresident senior fellow at the Asia Security Initiative and a veteran China journalist, was interviewed on his book The Myth of Chinese Capitalism: The Worker, the Factory, and the Future of the World by CityMetric, a sister publication of the British magazine the New Statesman. The discussion centers on one of the myths about China that Roberts challenges in his book: the continued expansion of the Chinese middle class and political change in China. Roberts argues that the Chinese middle class won’t be able to continue expanding due to China’s uniquely severe rural-urban divide. This, he explains, was caused by government regulations restricting movement within the country dating back to the Mao era. This “internal passport system” persists, according to Roberts, in part because Chinese local governments are reluctant to burden the costs of welfare for migrant laborers from the countryside and their children, and in part because urbanites are reluctant to share public resources such as health and education facilities.
That’s… [a] big myth, that the middle class in China will just continue to grow larger and larger. To be clear, it’s already very big but it will no longer continue to grow as long as China maintains these legacy policies that ensure half the population is held back and kept in this second–class status.