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Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous: The Creation and Implications of China’s New Aristocracy

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image of Comparative Sociology
For content published from 1960-2001, see International Journal of Comparative Sociology.

This essay examines how the consumption of luxury goods and services in contemporary China has become a key way of defining membership in what Chinese popularly refer to as the “new rich” (xin fu) or “new aristocracy” (xin gui). During the Maoist era (1949-1976) and extending into the first decade of the Reform Era in China (1978-1988), political power bestowed modest material advantages. But now state officials can directly - or indirectly via their friends, family, and even mistresses - convert political power into wealth and pursue more luxurious lifestyles, fueling both popular desire for the lifestyles of the rich and a deep resentment based on the belief that many of the new rich secured access to those lifestyles through graft.

Affiliations: 1: Merton College Oxford University Oxford OX1 4JD UK, Email:


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